Go to content

Annual Report 2017 - 2018

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. See Board members.

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 chart below.

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. See Board members.

The daily management of Legal Aid NSW is overseen by the Chief Executive Officer, with assistance from the Deputy CEO and nine 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, the Strategic Plan 2018-2023, Code of Conduct, legal aid guidelines and means tests, Corruption and Fraud Prevention Plan, and Business Continuity Plan.

Governance framework

Legal Aid NSW Strategic Plan 2018–2023

In October 2017, we started developing our five year strategic plan. We held workshops in a number of Legal Aid NSW offices in October and November 2017, including Nowra, Wagga, Sydney, Bankstown, Port Macquarie, Lismore, Parramatta and Tamworth. Sessions were also held with the Aboriginal Staff Network, Solicitor in Charge Network and Office Manager Network. Around 300 staff members were involved in these discussions.

The content for the Legal Aid NSW Strategic Plan 2018–2023 was progressively developed through a series of workshops with the Legal Aid NSW Executive Team, and staff comments on the draft high level Strategic Plan were sought via the intranet throughout December 2017 and January 2018. The feedback we received from staff during this process was overwhelmingly positive.

Targeted consultation with external stakeholders on a draft strategic plan occurred in February 2018, with views sought from the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT, Community Legal Centres NSW, the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW and the Department of Justice.

The Legal Aid NSW Strategic Plan 2018–2023 was approved by the Legal Aid NSW Board on 6 March 2018, and will commence on 1 July 2018. It sets out our vision–to be a leader in a legal system that delivers fair outcomes for disadvantaged and vulnerable people; and our purpose– to use the law to help people, particularly those who are disadvantaged, know, defend and assert their rights.

It includes five key outcomes, as well as our strategic initiatives for achieving those outcomes. The outcomes are:

  • High quality, targeted services that meet our clients’ needs;
  • Partnerships that deliver the best possible outcomes for our clients;
  • Our work improves the legal and justice systems;
  • A highly capable workforce that is flexible, developed and equipped;
  • Business processes that are responsive to our business needs.

Legal Aid Plan NSW 2018-2019

The Legal Aid NSW Plan 2018-2019 highlights the key priorities for the first year of the Strategic Plan 2018-2023.

A draft Year 1 Plan was developed at an Executive Workshop held on 20 April 2018, and discussed at the Board Planning Day on 2 May 2018.

Actions in the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2018-2019 are also included in divisional plans, providing an important link between operational and higher-level planning and allowing staff to contribute more fully to the actions in the plan.

Progress against the plans is monitored by the Executive each quarter and reviewed by the Board. In 2017–2018, the frequency of review by the Board will increase as progress against the plan will be considered at all Board meetings.

The Legal Aid NSW Plan 2018–2019 and Legal Aid NSW Strategic Plan 2018–2023 are available in the About us section of the Legal Aid NSW website.

Executive Program Management Office

The Executive Program Management Office (ePMO) provides centralised support for the major change and project initiatives within Legal Aid NSW. It promotes organisation-wide standards and processes and provides senior managers and the executive with information on progress, costs, resources and benefits across projects, which helps with key decisions.

The ePMO is a member of the Major Projects Sub Committee and the Major Project Boards but does not have decision making powers. The ePMO is responsible for:

  • Oversight of all projects defined as Major Projects
  • Coordinating and quality assurance of the program reporting for the Major Projects Sub Committee
  • Supporting and advising project teams and sponsors
  • Facilitating Post Implementation Reviews
  • Coordinating change management across all Major Projects.

Code of Conduct

The Legal Aid NSW Code of Conduct addresses the requirements of the Public Service Commission and the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 (NSW) Ethical Framework provisions.

The 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.

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 and Facilities 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 one-year risk assessment covering the period 2017–2018. Number of performance audits completed

Performance audits over 5 years 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 risk assessment plan. This provides the Audit and Risk Committee with appropriate flexibility and responsiveness.

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

Risk management chart

Report from the Audit and Risk Committee 2017–2018

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.

The Committee is comprised of three independent members:

  • Michael Coleman–Chair
  • Peter Whitehead–Committee Member
  • Robyn Gray–Committee Member

The Chief Executive Officer, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Audit Executive, Director Finance and Director of Policy, Planning and Programs also attend each meeting. Representatives from the NSW Audit Office also attend each meeting.

The Committee met on six occasions in 2017–2018 and reviewed a range of matters including:

  • Monthly financial results;
  • End of Year Financial Statements;
  • Updates on Internal Audits and the implementation of recommendations;
  • Board papers with financial implications;
  • District Court Backlog Expenditure;
  • Business Continuity Plans;
  • Client and Case Management System; and
  • Updated Risk Assessment, Audit and Risk Charter, and Internal Audit Plan.

The following internal audits were undertaken during the year:

  • Payroll
  • Complaints Management
  • Credit Cards and Travel Claims
  • ISO27001 Information Security Management System Surveillance Review

Monique Hitter
Chief Audit Executive

Who are our committee members?

Peter Whitehead is a lawyer and the former Public Trustee of NSW. Peter was part of the original committee reviewing the role of audit within the New South Wales government. He has since chaired a number of New South Wales government Audit and Risk Committees, including Premier and Cabinet, Finance and Services, Attorney General's, Crime Commission and Judicial Commission. Peter currently works in the financial services industry.

Robyn Gray is a lawyer, accredited mediator and principal of Herne Gray and Associates P/L. She brings over 25 years’ experience as a prosecutor, investigator and legal manager in Commonwealth and New South Wales public sector agencies and several Royal Commissions. In 2007, Robyn established her own consultancy to service public sector and not for profit agencies. She is an independent member of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Executive Board, the Justice Health Human Research Ethics Committee and three public sector Audit and Risk Committees.

Other members: Michael Coleman, Monique Hitter, Kylie Beckhouse.

Digital Information Security Annual Attestation Statement for the 2017–2018 Financial Year for Legal Aid NSW

I, Brendan Thomas, am of the opinion that Legal Aid NSW had an Information Security Management System in place during the 2017–2018 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 :2013 Information technology–Security techniques–Information security management systems -Requirements by an Accredited Third Party during the 2017–2018 financial year.

Brendan Thomas, CEO

Internal Audit and Risk Management Attestation Statement

I, Brendan Thomas am of the opinion that Legal Aid NSW has internal audit and risk management processes in operation that are, excluding the exceptions or transitional arrangements described below, compliant with the eight (8) core requirements set out in the Internal Audit and Risk Management Policy for the NSW Public Sector, specifically:

Core Requirements For each requirement, please specify whether compliant, noncompliant, or in transition
Risk Management Framework
1.1 The agency head is ultimately responsible and accountable for risk management in the agency. Compliant
1.2 A risk management framework that is appropriate to the agency has been established and maintained and the framework is consistent with AS/NZS ISO 31000:2009 Compliant
Internal Audit Function
2.1 An internal audit function has been established and maintained Compliant
2.2 The operation of the internal audit function is consistent with the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing Compliant
2.3 The agency has an Internal Audit Charter that is consistent with the content of the ‘model charter’ Compliant
Audit and Risk Committee
3.1 An independent Audit and Risk Committee with appropriate expertise has been establishedCompliant
3.2 The Audit and Risk Committee is an advisory committee providing assistance to the agency head on the agency’s governance processes, risk management and control frameworks, and its external accountability obligationsCompliant
3.3 The Audit and Risk Committee has a Charter that is consistent with the content of the ‘model charter’Compliant

The chair and members of the Audit and Risk Committee are:

  • Mr Michael Coleman Independent Chair Start term date: 29 June, 2016 Finish term date: 22 June, 2019
  • Mr Peter Whitehead Independent Member Start term date: 28 October 2014 Finish term date: 11 March 2017 Re appointed from (11 March, 2017–11 March, 2020)
  • Ms Robyn Gray Independent Member Start term date: 11 March 2017 Finish term date: 11 March, 2020
  • Mr Richard Funston Non–Independent Member Start term date:12 March, 2017 Finish term date: 20 April, 2018
  • Ms Kylie Beckhouse Non–Independent Member Start term date: 21 April, 2018 Finish term date: 10 June, 2018
  • Ms Monique Hitter Non–Independent Member Start term date: 11 June 2018

Brendan Thomas
Date: 20 August 2018

Business continuity

We have a Business Continuity Plan that are 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 plans address a range of actions that are required to manage the situation, including a recovery management team to oversee the recovery process.

A Business Continuity Management Committee met regularly, currently chaired by the Deputy CEO. During 2017–2018, we completed the Business Continuity Plan testing and training for Central Sydney (Head Office). Business continuity training, staff awareness and testing for regional offices will continue through 2018–2019.

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.

calendar iconThe year ahead

  • Implement the first year of the Strategic Plan 2018-2023 and the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2018-2019.
  • Conduct five performance audits.
  • Conduct business continuity training, staff awareness and testing for regional offices.