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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Legal Aid NSW Board

A Board with 10 members determines our broad policies and strategic priorities.

The Board of Legal Aid NSW consists of nine part-time members including the Chair, and one full-time member, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid NSW.

Part-time board members are appointed by the NSW Attorney General for a period of up to three years, other than the Chair who is appointed for a period up to five years. The term of the current Board members expires in June 2019.

Craig Smith continued in the role as Chair, which he has held since February 2013. Several members who joined the Board in June 2016 took advantage of an extensive induction program involving visits to meet Legal Aid NSW staff at their workplaces, and briefings from members of the Executive.

Key activities of the Board this year

The Board exercised its statutory role to set strategic policies and approved the Legal Aid NSW financial statements. It was regularly updated on progress of actions under the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2016–2017.

The Board re-established the Crime and Grants Subcommittee, established under section 68 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979, to consider a review of Legal Aid NSW higher court criminal appeals policy. The Board subsequently approved the review report and a number of changes to practices and procedures.

Funding for the Community Legal Centres (CLCs)Program, which is administered by Legal Aid NSW, occupied the Board at two ordinary meetings and two out of session meetings held via email. The Board was concerned about the reduced funding available for allocation to CLCs as a result of a Commonwealth grant coming to an end and expressed its concerns to the NSW Attorney General. Subsequently both the State Government and the Commonwealth Government made additional funding available. This required the Board to approve a revised funding allocation at an out of session meeting.

The Board also approved a number of policy changes including changes to the contributions policy and extended the availability of legal aid in employment law matters.

The Board approved a new charter for the Audit and Risk Committee, which reviewed Legal Aid NSW financial statements and oversaw its internal audit program. It also commissioned an update to its risk assessment and fraud and corruption control plan.

The Board was also kept informed about key initiatives at Legal Aid NSW during the year. It expressed its condolences to the family of outgoing CEO Bill Grant after his sudden and untimely passing soon after retiring. The Board also welcomed the appointment of new CEO, Brendan Thomas in late May 2017.

Meetings of the Board

The Board held seven meetings in 2016–2017, including two out of session meetings via email to decide on urgent matters relating to the funding under the Community Legal Centres Program. Twenty-five per cent of the Board’s time was spent on reviewing finance and operational reports and considering matters raised by the Audit and Risk Committee, sixty per cent of its time was taken up by determining policies and strategies, and the remaining fifteen per cent of Board time was spent on background briefings.

Board members’ fees

Part-time Board members are entitled to be paid fees for attending meetings, reading background papers, sitting on committees and representing Legal Aid NSW at meetings with other organisations. No fees are paid to members who are salaried Government employees or who choose not to be paid.

Active on committees

The Board is advised by the Crime and Grants Sub-Committee and Audit and Risk Committee which advises on budgetary and internal audit matters.