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Annual Report 2014 - 2015

Governance framework

The Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales 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 a statutory body representing the Crown.

The Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales is precluded from employing staff by s.47A of the Constitution Act 1902. The Legal Aid Commission Staff Agency, a separate Public Service agency with the Chief Executive Officer as its head, employs staff to enable the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales to exercise its functions. Persons employed in this way may be referred to as officers or employees or members of staff of the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales.

Collectively, the Legal Aid Commission of NSW and the Legal Aid Commission Staff Agency 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. See chart 1.

Corporate governance framework

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. Details of Board members appear in the Board members section.

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

The CEO has a performance agreement with the Attorney General. The Deputy CEO and Directors 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 the Legal Aid NSW Plan, Code of Conduct, legal aid guidelines and means tests, Corruption and Fraud Prevention Plan and Business Continuity Plan.

Corporate planning involves staff and Board members

The new Legal Aid NSW Plan 2015- 2016 was developed with input from staff, the Executive and the Legal Aid NSW Board. The Plan follows the same format as in previous years and retains the same corporate intent and objectives. Actions in the plan flow into business plans for all divisions creating meaningful links with high-level actions and providing staff with an opportunity to participate in the Plan’s deliverables. The Executive monitors the progress against the Plan each quarter. The Legal Aid NSW Board reviews progress six-monthly.

The Legal Aid NSW Plan 2015-2016 is available in the About us section of the Legal Aid NSW website.

The Diversity Action Plan uses the same objectives as the Legal Aid NSW Plan.

Ethics code reviewed in preparation for release to all staff

The Code of Conduct has been reviewed in line with the Public Service Commissioner’s directions and will be introduced at Legal Aid NSW in September 2015.

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.

The Code of Conduct will be updated in 2015-2016 in line with the Public Service Commission’s requirement.

In addition, all our lawyers are bound by professional practice standards and comply with mandatory continuing professional development requirements.

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 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 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. The Audit Plan is based on a three-year risk assessment covering the period 2013-2016.

Up to six audits are scheduled for each of the three years. During 2014-2015, five internal audits were conducted. See chart below.

Chart showing performance audits completed

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.

chart

Legal Aid NSW may undertake additional audits to meet contemporary issues and developments that are unforeseen by a settled three year plan. This provides the Audit and Risk Committee with appropriate flexibility and responsiveness.

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.

Legal Aid NSW completed a review of this Plan in 2014-2015.

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.

The year ahead

Implement the new Code of Conduct.

Conduct six internal audits as well as a three-year risk assessment to plan for our risk management and governance, including identifying new internal audits.

Implement the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2015-2016.

Report from the Audit and Risk Committee 2014-2015

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 Peter Whitehead) were independent members and one member (Kylie Beckhouse) was a nonindependent executive member. The Chief Executive Officer, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Audit Executive, and the Director Finance also attend each meeting. Representatives from the Audit Office attended some meetings.

The Committee met on 6 occasions in 2014–2015 and reviewed a range of matters including:

  • Monthly financial results;
  • Internal Audit Plan for 2014–2015;
  • End of Year Financial Statements;
  • Updates on Internal Audits and the implementation of recommendations;
  • Board papers with financial implications and
  • Updated Risk Assessment and three year Internal Audit Plan.

The following internal audits were completed during the year:

  • Accounts Payable and Payments
  • Community Partnerships Community Legal Centre Program
  • Delegations of Authority
  • Information Security
  • Professional Practices Branch

 

Philip Bickerstaff M Comm
Independent Chair

Internal Audit and Risk Management Statement for Legal Aid NSW 2014-2015

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)
  • Peter Whitehead, Independent Member (3 year appointment).
  • Kylie Beckhouse, Non-Independent Member (3 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.

 

William Grant
Chief Executive Officer

Digital Information Security Annual Attestation Statement for the 2014-2015 Financial Year for Legal Aid NSW

I, William Grant, am of the opinion that Legal Aid NSW had an Information Security Management System in place during the 2014-2015 financial year that is consistent with the Core Requirements set out in the NSW Government Digital Information Security Policy.

The controls in place to mitigate identified risks to the digital information and digital information systems of Legal Aid NSW are adequate.

There is no agency under the control of Legal Aid NSW which is required to develop an independent ISMS in accordance with the NSW Government Digital Information Security Policy.

Legal Aid NSW has maintained certified compliance with ISO 27001 Information technology - Security techniques - Information security management systems - Requirements by an Accredited Third Party during the 2014-2015 financial year.

 

William Grant
Chief Executive Officer