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Annual Report 2015 - 2016

Governance framework

Governance framework chart

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 section 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.

People 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 above diagram.

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 details 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 Directors who appear in the Senior directors section.

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 as well as compliance with the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979. 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

The new Legal Aid NSW Plan 2016–2017 was developed with input from staff and the Executive Committee. The first meeting of the new Legal Aid NSW Board in late June 2016 meant that not all members could contribute to the plan.

The plan keeps the same format and four objectives as in previous years. These objectives are the cornerstone of all high level plans, such as the Diversity Action Plan 2015–2016, all divisional plans and the Domestic and Family Violence Strategy 2016–2018, providing a common link that demonstrates consistency and shared purpose in our work.

Actions in the plan are incorporated into divisional plans and provide an important, seamless link with high-level actions, giving staff an opportunity to engage more fully with the plan.

The executive monitors the plan’s achievements quarterly, while the board reviews progress twice a year.

The Legal Aid NSW Plan 2016–2017 is available in the About us section of the Legal Aid NSW website.

The Diversity Action Plans use the same objectives as the Legal Aid NSW Plans, ensuring consistency.

Code of Conduct

Legal Aid NSW revised the Code of Conduct to address the requirements of the Public Service Commission and the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 Ethical Framework provisions. The Code was provided to staff in August 2015.

The updated Code:

  • sets the legal, ethical and institutional context for ethical conduct by New South Wales government sector employees
  • provides advice to employees (executives, managers and staff) on demonstrating ethical good practice in leadership, decision-making and other responsibilities
  • clearly outlines the responsibility of all individuals to know, understand and comply with all the ethical and legal obligations that apply both inside and outside the workplace. The Code of Conduct has been included in the Legal Aid NSW induction program and individual planning.

In February 2016, Legal Aid NSW developed a workplace standards package which included the Code, Respect Guidelines and a Complaints Management Framework.

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 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 allows for additional audits if circumstances change during the course of the year. The preparation of the risk assessment is based on a methodology that recognises 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 a 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 2015–2016, six internal audits were undertaken (see the report below for details).

We met our target of completing six performance audits.

Number of performance audits completed

Performance audits chart

Risk management process is kept flexible and responsive

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.

Legal Aid NSW may undertake additional audits to meet contemporary issues and developments that are unforeseen by a settled risk assessment. This gives the Audit and Risk Committee appropriate flexibility and responsiveness.

The audits undertaken through the year were approved by the Audit and Risk Committee and were drawn from the Risk Assessment also approved by the Audit and Risk Committee.

A new three-year Risk Assessment is to be settled by 30 June 2017, which will inform future internal audits.

Risk management chart

Report from the Audit and Risk Committee 2015–2016

The primary objective of the Audit and Risk Committee is to advise the Board, including the Chief Executive Officer, on 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 non-independent 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 most meetings.

The Committee met on four occasions in 2015–2016 and reviewed a range of matters including:

  • Monthly financial results;
  • Internal Audit Plan for 2015–2016;
  • End of Year Financial Statements;
  • Updates on Internal Audits and the implementation of recommendations;
  • Board papers with financial implications; and
  • Updated Risk Assessment and Internal Audit Plan.

The following internal audits were undertaken during the year:

  • Regional Offices
  • SAP General Computer Controls and Segregation of Duties
  • Records Management
  • Means and Merit Tests
  • Activity Based Costing
  • Contributions Policy Changes

Steve O’Connor
Chief Audit Executive

Internal Audit and Risk Management Statement for Legal Aid NSW 2015–2016

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:

  • Phillip Bickerstaff, Independent Chair (3 year appointment)— retired 17 February, 2016
  • 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 2015–2016 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 2015–2016 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.

The 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 2015–2016 financial year.

William Grant
Chief Executive Officer

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 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.

We further reviewed and improved all our business continuity plans during 2015–2016, and ensured our IT Disaster Recovery Plan aligns with our business continuity arrangements and expectations.

Our IT Disaster Recovery and Backup arrangements which support our business continuity plans were transitioned during 2015–2016 from an internally managed secondary data centre to a cloud services arrangement.

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. We are currently updating our Protected Disclosure Policy following an audit undertaken by the NSW Ombudsman.

Icon for The year aheadThe year ahead

  • Achieve certified compliance with information security standards.
  • Review the current Risk Assessment and extend it for three years to be in place by 1 July 2017.
  • Implement the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2016–2017.