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Welcome to the Department of Finance annual report 2015–16—a report that marks the end of the first full year of the enhanced Commonwealth performance framework and includes, for the first time, annual performance statements, providing information on our performance against our Corporate Plan 2015–16 and Portfolio Budget Statements 2015–16.

The department’s aspiration to lead the public sector in delivering excellence and value in the business of government is reflected in our many and varied achievements over the past 12 months.

These achievements all took place during a year of great change within the department. We made significant progress on our internal transformation program, which reflects the broader transformation across the public service. While continuing to deliver value for money for the people of Australia, we started working in a new operating model. A more flexible and mobile workforce means we can match our staff with our priorities and streamline the way we work.

We used this model to direct temporary staff and resources into supporting areas with peak workloads such as priority work in Ministerial and Parliamentary Services during the election campaign and Budget and Financial Reporting for the 2016–17 Budget.

Part of this change included moving more than 1,300 staff into a new building and on to a new technology platform. Being together in one building, rather than five, enables our people to collaborate more easily. Improved technology and work practices help increase our flexibility.

Our achievements

The department played a central role in supporting the government to deliver its fiscal targets and policy objectives.

We also successfully delivered the 2016–17 Budget and the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook with our colleagues in the Treasury.

We have fostered improved public sector practice in a diverse range of areas. This work often involved close partnerships with other entities, and included the enhanced Commonwealth performance framework; Senate electoral reform; a revised guideline for machinery of government changes; an investment mandate for the Medical Research Future Fund; and the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement negotiations.

The department focused on ways to improve public sector operations and reform the way public assets are managed and operated. We support broader public sector transformation through initiatives such as the National Property Efficiency Program, scoping studies into ownership options for government businesses and assets, the contestability program, the shared and common services program and implementation of a number of recommendations from the independent review of whole-of-government internal regulation.

Managing efficient, cost-effective services to, and for, government, the department is delivering across a number of areas including govCMS, the parliamentary injury compensation scheme, refurbishment of the child dispute area at the Commonwealth Law Courts building in Sydney, the Cox Peninsula remediation project, and construction of the new post-entry quarantine facility at Mickleham, Victoria.

Over the past 12 months, the department also showed public sector leadership in providing advice on major reforms, including the youth employment package, the national innovation and science agenda, and investment in infrastructure and defence capability.

Our priorities for the year ahead

In 2016–17, the department will continue to support the government to deliver its fiscal policy objectives through the budget and financial advice, management and reporting, as required by the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998 and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

The department is also committed to continuing to support public sector transformation, both by being an example itself and through targeted investment to assist the Australian Public Service to become more collaborative, innovative and agile.

We will continue to champion the smaller and more efficient government agenda, by continuing to review and reform a number of government business enterprises, and other similar government activities.

We will continue to rationalise the Australian Government’s non-defence domestic property holdings and improve the efficiency of property management in support of the government’s agenda to modernise approaches to provide and manage publicly funded services and assets more efficiently.

Finally, we will deliver on these priorities as we continue the transformation of our own business model, tools and systems to maximise efficiency and to ensure we can effectively support the government’s policy agenda.

Our financial performance

The department remains in a sound financial position, operating within its appropriation.

For 2015–16 , the department reported an overall operating surplus of $113.5 million. This result is largely due to favourable external factors affecting property valuations and lower insurance claims for the department.

For 2015–16, the department has streamlined its financial statements to provide simpler, more meaningful information and reduced unnecessary disclosures that do not add value to the readability of the statements. Finance aims to be an exemplar of this approach and is encouraging and assisting other public sector entities to review disclosures in their financial statements. The Australian National Audit Office supports this approach and undertook a similar review for its 2014–15 financial statements.

Our people

We would not be able to achieve any of our goals without our people. Our most valuable asset, and our true strength, are the staff who make these achievements happen. They provide a range of professional services and strategic advice every day, while reflecting our values—to be impartial, committed to service, accountable, respectful and ethical.

The department is a positive and healthy organisation where staff enjoy their work and feel valued. This was reflected in our 2016 APS employee census results: Finance’s departmental culture and employee engagement markers were above 80 per cent.

Our staff are supported by our enterprise agreement, a range of cultural networks, our Diversity Plan and Reconciliation Action Plan, an online learning management system and our new performance and capability framework.

Our staff also continued to show how important their community is, raising more than $6,000 for our flagship charity, Communities​@​Work. I am always impressed by and proud of the commitment, generosity and community spirit we show in the department.

In 2016–17, we look forward to our continuing relationship with the Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, and to working with the Special Minister of State, Senator the Hon Scott Ryan, in what promises to be a busy and fruitful year.


Jane Halton

Last updated: 24 October 2016