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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Governance framework

The Legal Aid Commission of NSW is established under the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 to improve access to justice for socially and economically disadvantaged members of our community. It is an independent statutory body.

The Office of the Legal Aid Commission, a Division of the Government Service, provides personnel services to the Legal Aid Commission of NSW at cost. The Legal Aid Commission of NSW does not employ staff directly.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations nominates their respective responsibilities.

Collectively the Legal Aid Commission of NSW and the Office of the Legal Aid Commission are referred to as Legal Aid NSW.

Our governance structure ensures that the business objectives of Legal Aid NSW are met in an ethical and effective manner.

Legal Aid NSW has a Board that is responsible for establishing broad policies and strategic plans for Legal Aid NSW. The Chief Executive Officer is a member of the Board (see Board members)

The daily management of Legal Aid NSW is overseen by the CEO, with assistance from the Deputy CEO Operations and eight Executive Directors.

The CEO has a performance agreement with the Attorney General (see Appendix 1). The Deputy CEO Operations and Executive Directors (Senior Executive Service) have performance agreements with the CEO.

Our work is supported by a range of plans and policies to establish procedural requirements, standards and priorities. These include our Corporate Plan, Code of Conduct, legal aid guidelines and means tests, Corruption and Fraud Prevention Plan, Business Continuity Plan and divisional plans.

Review of senior management

A review of the executive management structure commenced in September 2010 and was partially implemented by June 2011. Based on the review the CEO made the following key changes to the senior management structure:

  • introducing a single Deputy CEO, Operations, to replace the two Deputy CEOs;
  • placing all client service delivery functions — including the legal practice, grants of aid to private lawyers, and community partnerships — under the Deputy CEO Operations;
  • creating a new Executive Director, Strategic Policy, Planning and Management Reporting to bring a greater focus on strategic policy work, data analysis and management reporting; and
  • replacing the role of Director, Human Resources Management with an Executive Director, People and Organisational Development with a stronger focus on staff development and staff health and wellbeing.

The total number of SES and Senior Officer positions remained the same. The organisational chart shows the new senior management structure.

The restructure has increased the focus on key aspects of our work.

The review also recommended changes to regional office reporting arrangements. From next year reporting for these offices will be distributed equally between the Executive Directors of Criminal Law, Family Law and Civil Law.

Corporate planning

The current Corporate Plan expires on 30 June 2011 and will be replaced with a Legal Aid NSW Plan 2011-2013 for the next two years. In developing the new plan, Legal Aid NSW embarked upon a comprehensive consultative process through an online survey of staff and private lawyers and face-to-face interviews with several key stakeholders. Key partners were also invited to send written comments. The results of the staff online survey were published on the intranet.

Two staff workshops were conducted to ensure appropriate representation from diverse areas across the organisation and to allow valuable input into the future direction of Legal Aid NSW. Executive planning workshops to develop the new plan reviewed performance against the current Corporate Plan, ensuring that areas requiring attention and improvement were incorporated into the new plan. The workshops also considered stakeholder, private lawyer and staff feedback. Feedback on the draft plan was invited from a further staff workshop.

The input of staff had a strong influence over the new Plan. It is reflected in a major area of focus — supporting our people — which includes commitments to improve the health and wellbeing of staff, address workload issues, promote occupational health and safety across work locations and improve support for our inhouse legal practice.

The plan also continues our commitment to access to justice, through our contribution to law reform, and continuing to expand access to advice and minor assistance services.

Our work in the area of excellence in legal services will include improving training for lawyers and reviewing our processes for selecting and monitoring panel lawyers.

Finally, the plan commits us to continuing our work in linking services - both within Legal Aid NSW and with external services. The new Legal Aid NSW Plan will be presented to the Board in August 2011.

This year the civil law practice developed its first major strategic plan for the next five years, which is now being implemented by Central Sydney and regional office teams.

Ethical behaviour

In providing legal services to our clients we are placed in a position of trust. Accordingly we have established our corporate values as:

  • Integrity – acting ethically at all times;
  • Professionalism – providing high quality services;
  • Efficiency – using resources responsibly;
  • Equity – ensuring equal access to services.

These values are emphasised in our Corporate Plan, Code of Conduct, induction training, and policies and procedures.

In addition, all our lawyers are bound by professional practice standards, comply with mandatory continuing professional development requirements and have available a range of skills development training courses.

Financial performance

Legal Aid NSW has a strong financial focus and the Finance Branch has worked hard to develop robust budgets and clear, concise reporting to internal and external stakeholders. Detailed monthly financial reports are prepared for the Audit and Risk Committee and the Board. A commentary including detailed analysis is also provided. The Director, Corporate Finance provides expert advice at the Audit and Risk Committee and the Board meetings.

Risk management and internal audits

Legal Aid NSW regularly conducts a risk assessment of its activities covering both strategic and operational risks. The current risk assessment was prepared in April 2011 by O’Connor Marsden.

The risk assessment has been used to prepare the Internal Audit Plan for 2011-2012. The Internal Audit Plan also includes provision for additional audits should circumstances change during the course of the year. The preparation of the risk assessment is based upon a methodology recognising inherent risk and control effectiveness.

Each audit has a stated objective and scope of activity. All audit recommendations to improve controls require a management response detailing the action that will be taken to implement the recommendations, the designated responsible officer and an identified completion date for implementation.

Presentation of the audit plan and regular reports on the progress of audits and the implementation of audit recommendations are included on the agenda of the Audit and Risk Committee.

During 2010-2011, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the Internal Audit Bureau were the internal auditors for Legal Aid NSW.

Audit and Risk Committee - reporting lines

Whilst risk management and internal controls are overseen by the Audit and Risk Committee, primary responsibility for managing risk and internal controls rests with line managers, who are required to ensure that an effective control environment operates within their area of responsibility.

Report from the Board Audit and Risk Committee 2010-2011

The primary objective of the Board Audit and Risk Committee is to advise the Board, including the Chief Executive Officer, concerning financial reporting practices, business ethics, policies and practices, accounting policies and internal controls.

Accordingly, the Committee oversees a range of activities including the financial performance of Legal Aid NSW and the internal audit function.

During the year, the Committee comprised three members. Two members (Phil Bickerstaff and John Bordon) were independent members from the Board of Legal Aid NSW and one member (Kylie Beckhouse) was a non-independent executive member. The Chief Executive Officer, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer Operations and Chief Audit Executive, and a senior representative from the Finance Branch also attend each meeting. Representatives from the Audit Office attended some meetings.

The Committee met on eleven occasions in 2010-11 and reviewed a range of matters including:

  • Monthly financial results
  • Internal Audit Plan for 2010-2011
  • End of Year Financial Statements
  • Updates on Internal Audits and the implementation of recommendations
  • Board papers with financial implications

The following internal audits were completed during the year:

  • Granting of Legal Aid-Policy Conformance
  • Performance audit on Duty Services
  • Regional Offices - major controls
  • Vendor Maintenance
  • Back-up and Disaster Recovery

A number of audits are currently in progress, including Information Security, OHS and First Aid and a Post Implementation Assessment of CASES.

 

Philip Bickerstaff M Comm
Independent Chair
9 October 2011

Internal Audit and Risk Management Statement for Legal Aid NSW 2010-2011

I, Richard Funston, am of the opinion that Legal Aid NSW has internal audit and risk management processes in place that are, in all material respects, compliant with the core requirements set out in Treasury Circular NSW TC 09/08 Internal Audit and Risk Management Policy.

I, Richard Funston, am of the opinion that the Audit and Risk Committee for Legal Aid NSW is constituted and operates in accordance with the independence and governance requirements of Treasury Circular NSW TC 09-0.

The Chair and Members of the Audit and Risk Committee are:

  • Phil Bickerstaff, Independent Chair (3 year appointment)
  • John Bordon, Independent Member (Board designate)
  • Kylie Beckhouse, Non-Independent Member (4 year appointment)

I, Richard Funston declare that this Internal Audit and Risk Management Statement is made on behalf of the following controlled entity: Office of the Legal Aid Commission of NSW.

Legal Aid NSW has outsourced internal audit services for reasons of economy, given the relatively small size of Legal Aid NSW, access to specialist expertise and because it subjects our systems to best practice review standards. These processes provide a level of assurance that enables the senior management of Legal Aid NSW to understand, manage and satisfactorily control risk exposures.

 

Richard Funston
Acting Chief executive officer

Business continuity

Legal Aid NSW has a Business Continuity Management Plan that is initiated when a risk event occurs that results in the inability of Legal Aid NSW to continue to provide services from a regional office or a metropolitan office – including Central Sydney.

The Plan addresses a range of actions that are required to manage the situation including a recovery management team to oversee the recovery process.

Our Information Technology disaster recovery site provides an alternative site to host business systems and is tested on a regular basis.

Fraud

Legal Aid NSW is committed to conducting business with honesty and transparency. Our Corruption and Fraud Prevention Plan outlines the approach adopted to prevent fraud and other corrupt behaviour.

The Plan addresses a number of controls, including responsibility structure, risk assessment, reporting systems, investigation standards and conduct and disciplinary standards.

The Plan complements other related documents such as the Code of Conduct and Protected Disclosure Policy.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Implement a new Legal Aid NSW Plan that will guide our work for the next two years.

Key challenge

Ensuring that all our staff are fully informed about the new Legal Aid NSW Plan 2011-2013 so that actions in the plan are implemented and priorities achieved.