External scrutiny is provided by a range of formal mechanisms.
10.1 Public Accounts and Estimates Committee
The Public Accounts and Estimates Committee is a joint house investigatory committee of the Victorian Parliament constituted under the Parliamentary Committees Act 2003. The Committee has members from the ALP, Liberal Party, National Party and the Greens and from both houses of Parliament.
The Committee is responsible for scrutinising both the public accounts and the budget estimates. The Committee also has various statutory responsibilities in relation to the activities, performance and statutory functions of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.
Further information: www.parliament.vic.gov.au
10.2 Victorian Auditor-General’s Office
The Auditor-General is an independent officer of the Victorian Parliament, appointed under legislation to examine the management of resources within the public sector.
The Auditor-General is not subject to control or direction by either Parliament or Government, and his or her independence is enshrined in Victoria’s Constitution Act 1975. This independence ensures that findings which arise from a range of financial and performance audits are communicated to Parliament without interference.
The Public Accounts and Estimates Committee recommends the appointment of the Auditor-General and reports to Parliament on the budget estimates and the annual plan of the Auditor-General’s Office.
10.3 Victorian Ombudsman
The Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Victorian Parliament. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about administrative actions and decisions taken by government authorities and about the conduct or behaviour of their staff.
The Ombudsman’s powers to conduct investigations are deliberately broad. Unlike specialist review tribunals or commissions, the Ombudsman reviews the lawfulness of organisations’ actions or decisions as well as the reasonableness and fairness of these actions in the circumstances.
Further information: www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au.
10.4 Specialised Commissioners
Victoria has a number of public commissioners whose role is to receive complaints and improve services or strengthen protections for the Victorian community.
These include: the Health Complaints Commissioner; Commission for Children and Young People; Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission; Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability; and the Victorian Information Commissioner.
10.5 Privacy and Data Protection
The secure management of information is critical to government service delivery, public trust and confidence. The Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 establishes processes to reduce information security risks and maintain individuals’ privacy.
With limited exceptions, all Victorian government organisations, including local councils, must comply with the statutory obligations set out in the Act. These include the privacy principles outlining how personal information is to be collected and handled by public sector organisations. It also includes the Victorian Protective Data Security Framework and accompanying Victorian Protective Data Security Standards that have been developed to help organisations achieve data security.
Protecting information (including personal information) is the practice of applying risk-based controls, commensurate with the value of an organisation’s information assets. Selected security measures are used by organisations to ensure the continued confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.
The Privacy and Data Protection Deputy Commissioner has a wide range of functions including promoting an understanding of the information privacy principles and protective data security standards, monitoring and assuring the security of public sector data, and receiving complaints relating to alleged breaches of privacy by public sector organisations.
Further information: www.ovic.vic.gov.au
10.6 Freedom of Information
Victoria’s Freedom of Information Act 1982 promotes public accountability by giving people the right to access documents held by government agencies.
Under the Act documents can be obtained from Ministers, government departments, local councils, most semi-government agencies and statutory authorities, public hospitals and community health centres, and universities, TAFE institutes and schools. Requests for access to documents are made directly to the public body holding the documents.
The Information Commissioner is responsible for reviewing organisations’ FOI decisions, monitoring compliance and providing guidance to organisations and the public on Victoria’s FOI regime.
Further information: www.ovic.vic.gov.au.
10.7 Protected Disclosure
The Protected Disclosure Act 2012 ensures that people who report improper conduct and corruption in the Victorian public sector can do so in the knowledge that they will be protected from reprisals including bullying, harassment or legal action.
IBAC assesses complaints made under the Protected Disclosures Act.
Further information: www.ibac.vic.gov.au
10.8 Annual Reporting
Victorian public sector organisations are required by the Financial Management Act 1994 (or other Acts) to prepare an annual report at the end of each financial year for tabling in Parliament by the relevant Minister. There are clear guidelines as to the content to be included.
Each annual report completed under the Financial Management Act includes an audited financial statement by the Auditor-General.
Further information: www.dtf.vic.gov.au.