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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

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.

Board and management roles and responsibilities

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. Board members appear in Board members.

The daily management of Legal Aid NSW is overseen by the Chief Executive Officer, 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 new Legal Aid NSW Plan, Code of Conduct, legal aid guidelines and means tests, Corruption and Fraud Prevention Plan, Business Continuity Plan and Operational Plan.

Corporate planning

A new corporate plan, referred to as the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2011–2013, became effective this year following extensive internal and external consultation. Subsequently, a comprehensive Operational Plan 2011–2012 was developed to ensure that the focus areas of the Legal Aid NSW Plan were implemented. Progress against this plan is reported and monitored quarterly.

A new high level Operational Plan 2012–2013 was developed in May under which we continue to implement actions that will meet the priorities of the Legal Aid NSW Plan. The Legal Aid NSW Plan 2011–2013 will expire next year and work on a new plan will commence early in 2013.

The Legal Aid NSW Plan is posted under the About Us section on the Legal Aid NSW website.

Ethical standards and Code of Conduct

Legal Aid NSW is committed to acting ethically at all times. The Legal Aid NSW Code of Conduct provides an ethical framework for the decisions, actions and behaviour of all our staff and identifies the principles underlying appropriate conduct and the minimum standards of behaviour expected of staff. All new starters must read and sign the Code of Conduct before commencing work at Legal Aid NSW and it is an integral component of our induction training program.

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, 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 Executive Director, Finance provides expert advice at the Audit and Risk Committee and Board meetings.

Identifying and managing risk

Legal Aid NSW regularly conducts a risk assessment of its activities covering both strategic and operational risks.

The risk assessment is used to prepare the Internal Audit Plan. 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 2011–2012, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the Internal Audit Bureau were the internal auditors for Legal Aid NSW. 

Report from the Audit and Risk Committee 2011–2012

The primary objective of the 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 Lyn Baker) were independent members 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 the Executive Director Finance also attend each meeting. Representatives from the Audit Office attended some meetings.

The Committee met on 10 occasions in 2011–2012 and reviewed a range of matters including:

  • Monthly financial results;
  • Internal Audit Plan for 2011–2012;
  • End of Year Financial Statements;
  • Updates on Internal Audits and the implementation of recommendations; and
  • Board papers with financial implications.

The following internal audits were completed during the year:

  • Post Implementation assessment of CASES;
  • Occupational Health and Safety and First Aid Assessment; and
  • Information Security Current State Assessment.

A number of audits are currently in progress, including Administration and Recording of Flex Leave, Review of Better Practice Standards in application development and Review of Software Licences Management.

Signature

Philip Bickerstaff MComm
Independent Chair
October 2012

Internal Audit and Risk Management Statement for Legal Aid NSW 2011–2012

I, William Grant, 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, William Grant, 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 09/08.

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

  • Phil Bickerstaff, Independent Chair (3 year appointment)
  • Lyn Baker, Independent Member.
  • Kylie Beckhouse, Non-Independent Member (4 year appointment)

I, William Grant 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.

Signature

William Grant
Chief Executive Officer

Risk management process

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.

Risk management process

Business continuity

We have a Business Continuity Management Plan that is activated when a risk event renders Legal Aid NSW unable 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 and corruption processes

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

Deliver and be accountable against the priorities in our Legal Aid NSW Plan 2011–2013, which will draw to a close this year, and begin work on a new plan early in 2013.

Achieve budget savings in State Government funded programs. See Financial overview.

Key challenge

Developing a new Legal Aid NSW Plan for 2013–2015. The planned growth in our services must be balanced with our responsibilities for sound fiscal management, especially in meeting savings requirements.