Geoscience Australia management and accountability

A scientist in a paddock with a group of cows.

Corporate governance

Geoscience Australia’s corporate governance arrangements and practices guide its management and operations to improve overall performance and strengthen accountability.

Geoscience Australia’s governance framework includes advisory bodies and committees, as well as Accountable Authority Instructions, policies and procedural guidelines.

The Chief Executive Officer is supported by an Advisory Board and Portfolio Board. The Advisory Board comprises Senior Executive Service officials, plus four staff from the Executive Level (EL) and Australian Public Service (APS) classifications. The Board’s EL and APS staff members have even female and male representation. The Advisory Board is supported by five committees—the Audit and Risk Committee, Security Committee, ICT Strategy Committee, Work Health and Safety Committee and Work Relations Committee. The Portfolio Board comprises Senior Executive Service Officials and advises the Chief Executive Officer on organisation resource allocation and investment priorities.

Geoscience Australia’s strategic plan is reviewed annually to ensure that the organisation’s portfolio of work reflects current Australian Government priorities and policy requirements. The strategic plan is implemented through more detailed annual work plans.

Geoscience Australia’s governance practices comply with all statutory requirements and are reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain relevant and effective.

Fraud control

Geoscience Australia’s fraud control framework is consistent with better practice and provides assurance that the organisation’s fraud control strategies are robust. Ongoing fraud awareness training is provided for all staff. As required by the Fraud Rule and the Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy, Geoscience Australia reviews and updates its fraud control plan biennially. The plan details fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting procedures.

Significant issues reported to ministers

In 2015–16, Geoscience Australia breached section 21 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 by not informing the Finance Minister of a proposed major commitment of relevant money exceeding $5 million.

Geoscience Australia has revised its administrative processes to ensure that future breaches of this nature do not occur.

External scrutiny

In 2015–16, no judicial or administrative tribunal decisions were relevant to Geoscience Australia. No investigations into the organisation’s operations were conducted by the Commonwealth Ombudsman or by any parliamentary committee.

Geoscience Australia appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Economics for Senate estimates hearings once in 2015–16, on 22 October 2015. Geoscience Australia was not required by the Committee to attend the February 2016 additional estimates hearing and the re-scheduled budget estimates hearing on 6 May 2016.

Management of human resources

Key people management activities undertaken during 2015–16 included the negotiation and implementation of a new enterprise agreement, which commenced operation in April 2016. A new mentoring programme was introduced in February 2016 to assist employees with their personal and professional development. The Geoscience Australia Cultural Reference Group continued to drive the Inclusive Culture Programme to improve opportunities for employee diversity and inclusiveness. The Geoscience Australia Gender Strategy was implemented and an Indigenous Employment Strategy was launched to encourage increased opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.

Geoscience Australia supported and developed employees through study scholarships, study leave and financial assistance, development grants for high-performing employees and in-house learning and development programmes. The Geoscience Australia graduate programme continued. Eight graduates successfully completed the 2015 programme and moved into employment positions in January 2016. Nine new graduates commenced the 2016 programme, six in science disciplines and three in ICT.

No performance payments were made by Geoscience Australia in 2015–16.

Geoscience Australia’s workforce statistics tables are in Appendix B3.

Work health and safety

Geoscience Australia is committed to a system-based approach to ensuring the health, safety and wellness of workers and visitors. This approach is championed by the Chief Executive Officer through all levels of the organisation.

During 2015–16, a new wellbeing programme commenced, increasing Geoscience Australia’s investment in employee health and wellness. Key initiatives undertaken included:

  • restructuring the Work Health and Safety Committee to include a balanced representation of health and safety representatives and management
  • establishing an operational health and safety representative committee
  • offering influenza virus vaccinations to all employees, resulting in 43 per cent of employees being vaccinated
  • promoting the Employee Assistance Programme, including specific onsite consultations during a significant change process.

During 2015–16, Geoscience Australia reported two notifiable incidents to Comcare, which required no further action, and received no Comcare statutory notices. Both notifications were for electrical-related incidents.

Disability reporting mechanisms

The National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring. These reports are available on the Department of Social Services website (www.dss.gov.au).


During 2015–16, Geoscience Australia undertook its procurements in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and the requirements of its Accountable Authority Instructions.


During 2015–16, Geoscience Australia entered into five new consultancy contracts involving total actual expenditure of $0.079 million (GST inclusive). No ongoing consultancy contracts were active during 2015–16.

Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website (www.tenders.gov.au).

Geoscience Australia’s policy on selecting and engaging consultants and approving expenditure takes into account all relevant legislation, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and Geoscience Australia’s Accountable Authority Instructions.

The procurement method is determined having regard to the cost, value for money and nature of the work involved.

The Chief Executive Officer did not exempt any contract let during 2015–16 from publication on AusTender on the basis that it would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

All contracts valued at $100 000 or more (GST inclusive) let during 2015–16 allowed for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.

Grant programmes

Information on grants awarded by Geoscience Australia during 2015–16 is available on the organisation’s website (www.ga.gov.au/about/corporate-documents/grants-awarded).

Procurement initiatives to support small business

Geoscience Australia supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and medium enterprise and small enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance’s website (www.finance.gov.au/procurement/statistics-on-commonwealth-purchasing-contracts).

Geoscience Australia recognises the importance of ensuring that small businesses are paid on time. The results of the Survey of Australian Government Payments to Small Business are available on the Treasury’s website (www.treasury.gov.au).

Information Publication Scheme

Under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, Geoscience Australia is required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme. A plan showing the information Geoscience Australia publishes in accordance with the scheme is available on Geoscience Australia’s website (www.ga.gov.au/ips).

Advertising and market research

During 2015–16, Geoscience Australia did not pay advertising agencies or marketing, polling or direct mail organisations above the reporting threshold of $12 700 per payment (GST inclusive).

Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

In accordance with section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, a report on how Geoscience Australia’s activities accord with and contribute to the principles of ecologically sustainable development is in Appendix B4.

Service charter

Geoscience Australia’s service charter sets out standards of client service, client rights and responsibilities, and ways to obtain more information about the organisation’s products and services. It contains specific metrics for the provision of products and services related to the website and library. The charter applies to all clients, including other government agencies, community organisations, industry bodies and members of the public.

The charter is available on the Geoscience Australia website (www.ga.gov.au/about/corporate-documents/service-charter).