Annual report for corporate Commonwealth entities (RMG 136)

Important Notice: To assist entities and companies to prioritise the allocation of their resources to meeting the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, options are available where entities and companies consider it is not practical to meet the existing reporting deadlines for their 2020–21 corporate plans and 2019–20 annual reports. These options are outlined in the document available via the Download menu.

Audience

This guide applies to the accountable authorities, chief financial officers, chief operating officers, program managers and officials responsible for contributing to the delivery of the annual report within corporate Commonwealth entities.This guide applies to annual reports being prepared for reporting periods that begin on or after 1 July 2020.

Key points

This guide:

  • sets out how to prepare and publish an annual report
  • outlines mandatory content for annual reports
  • defines mandatory digital publication requirements, including standard data templates that entities are required to complete when producing and publishing the annual report using the Digital Reporting Tool.

For access to the Digital Reporting Tool, entity annual report coordinators should email digitalannualreportproject@finance.gov.au.

Resources

Related resources including appendices (containing tables and data templates), glossary terms and relevant sections of the PGPA Act and Rule are located in the right hand menu bar.

Appendix A: List of requirements template - corporate Commonwealth entities

  • This appendix is a template that includes the list of requirements set out in Schedule 2A of the PGPA Rule. The appendix is available under Tools and templates.  
  • To support this, the information in Part 2 of this guide has been structured in the same order as the list of requirements.

Appendix B: Digital Reporting Tool data templates

  • This appendix contains all the data templates that are required to be completed for the Digital Reporting Tool and is available under Tools and templates.
  • Where a provision has an associated data template, a reference to that template is provided above the provision.
  • The financial data templates only capture a subset of the required information from the financial statements.
  • The non-financial data templates help to meet minimum reporting requirements for either part or all of the provisions that they relate to.

Have you joined the Annual Reports GovTEAMS community?

The Digital Annual Reports Team hosts a community which provides useful information and training material on how annual report coordinators can use the Digital Reporting Tool to produce and publish an annual report.

To join the community email digitalannualreportproject@finance.gov.au.
 

What is an annual report?

An annual report is a document prepared each year by the accountable authority of a Commonwealth entity.

The report provides a broad statement of an entity's capability and performance, including results against targets published previously for the corresponding year in the Portfolio Budget Statements. It allows accountable authorities to report to their minister on the efficiency and effectiveness of the public administration for which minister is ultimately responsible.

The annual report must be presented to the Parliament by the responsible Minister.

Annual report principles

When corporate Commonwealth entities are preparing an annual report, they should consider the following principles. An annual report should:

  • be written in plain English and provide sufficient information and analysis for the Parliament to make a fully informed judgment on the entity’s performance
  • align with the overall Commonwealth resource management framework, PGPA Act, PGPA Rule and the Commonwealth performance framework
  • show the relationship between the reporting requirements within government (including corporate plans, Portfolio Budget Statements and other portfolio statements accompanying any other additional appropriation bills), and between the government and non‑government sectors.

Accountable authorities have discretion as to the extent of information to include in annual reports and the sequence in which it is presented. However, the requirements for information set out in the PGPA Rule must be met.

Annual report requirements

This guide is divided into three parts, each providing information on the requirements for annual reports. These parts are:

3

Part 1 – Approval, publication and presentation requirements

This part provides details of the requirements for the presentation of annual reports to the Parliament, including:

  • Overarching requirements
  • Approval requirements
  • Presentation timing and production standards
  • Plain English and clear design
  • Requirement to publish annual reports using the Digital Reporting Tool.

Overarching requirements
 

The accountable authority of a Commonwealth entity must:

  • prepare and give an annual report to the entity’s responsible Minister, for presentation to the Parliament, on the entity’s activities during the period,
  • include the entity’s annual performance statements and annual financial statements.

The annual report must be given to the responsible Minister by:

  • the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of the reporting period for the entity; or
  • the end of any further period granted.

The annual report must also comply with any requirements prescribed by the rules, which are detailed in this guidance. For entities that report on a financial year basis, this section requires that the annual report to be prepared and provided to the responsible Minister by 15 October for each reporting period.

This provision is not meant to contravene any timing set out by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) in relation to tabling of annual reports in the Parliament. Entities must ensure they provide their responsible Minister with sufficient time to consider the annual report prior to the report being presented to the Parliament, in accordance with PM&C’s guidelines (see the Parliamentary presentation timing and standards section).

Where an accountable authority cannot meet the requirements for presenting the annual report to the Parliament an extension can be applied for. The Acts Interpretation Act 1901 allows for an application (this is found under subsections 34C(4) to (7) of that Act). An extension should only be sought if it would not be reasonably possible for the report to be prepared within the specified timeframes. 


Approval requirements

Approval requirements

Presentation timing and production standards
 

The annual report for a corporate Commonwealth entity must comply with guidelines for presenting documents to the Parliament which are published by PM&C and titled Tabling Guidelines.

Towards the end of a reporting period, PM&C may issue a Tabling Circular containing the tabling timetable, which will reflect the Parliament’s expectations for the timing of the presentation of annual reports.

Normally annual reports are tabled on or before 31 October and it is expected annual reports are tabled prior to the October Estimates Hearings. This ensures annual reports are available for scrutiny by the relevant Senate standing committee.

Where entities are unable to meet the timing set out in PM&C’s circular, they should contact tabling@pmc.gov.au for further advice.

The Tabling Circular may also provide delivery instructions, and key tasks for tabling annual reports when the Parliament is not sitting. 

Guidance on the production standards for annual reports tabled in the Parliament are set out in the Printing Standards on the Parliament of Australia website.
 

Plain English and clear design
 

The annual report for a corporate Commonwealth entity must be prepared having regard to the interests of the Parliament and any other persons who are interested in the annual report. Annual reports are key documents of accountability and transparency to the Parliament and the public. Accordingly, annual reports should be prepared to best provide readers with a clear account of the operations and performance of the entity for the reporting period.

The annual report must, as required by the PGPA Rule, be relevant, reliable, concise, understandable and balanced, this can be achieved by: 

 

plain english

 

Tables, graphs, diagrams and charts should be used where appropriate to provide additional context to the information. Consistent with the Printing standards , entities must have regard to limiting the use of colour and illustrations to where it enhances the reader’s understanding of the material. An excessive use of colour, illustrations and photography is not usually required for the purposes of accountability and reporting to the Parliament. 

Requirement to publish annual reports using the Digital Reporting Tool
 

The annual report must be published using the Digital Reporting Tool which is administered by the Finance Minister, as soon as practicable after the annual report for a corporate Commonwealth entity has been presented to the Parliament.

The Digital Reporting Tool enables entities to draft content and publish annual reports to the Transparency Portal at transparency.gov.au in a fully accessible HTML format, and generate a printed report for Tabling (using the Word export feature). Commencing from the 2018-19 reporting period all Commonwealth entities’ and companies’ annual reports are to be published on and accessible from transparency.gov.au shortly after the presentation of these reports to the Parliament.

Once the annual report is tabled it is expected by Parliament that the annual report is also published on the Transparency Portal before the October Estimates Hearings. Publishing the annual report to Transparency Portal at the time the report is tabled will also meet the tabling guidelines requirement to publish an online version.

The Digital Reporting Tool contains a collection of templates for standard data sets that must be completed for the entity’s annual report. These templates reflect mandatory data requirements as set out by the PGPA Rule and are designed to assist entities to meet the reporting requirements. To assist entities in the preparation of their annual report, a copy of the required data templates are provided in Appendix B under Tools and templates

The Digital Reporting Tool is designed to assist entities to undertake a streamlined and more efficient annual reporting and publication process. Annual report coordinators should consider developing the annual report content directly in the Digital Reporting Tool and using the mandatory reporting templates provided within the relevant section of the entity’s annual report itself.

This approach helps to focus the content of the report on the reporting requirements of the Parliament, rather than some of the broader publication elements that are not core to the accountability or reporting requirements. The digital content can be exported from the Digital Reporting Tool, to be printed for tabling purposes. Adding further graphic design elements at this point in the publication process is possible but is not necessary to meet the tabling requirements. The Digital Annual Reports GovTeams Community provides a step-by-step guide on how to use the Digital Reporting Tool.

Further, the Australian Government Digital Service Standard, available at www.dta.gov.au, provides information about the legal and policy obligations of entities in relation to online publishing. This includes a range of mandatory requirements, including compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which the Digital Reporting Tool assists entities in meeting  by producing the HTML format.

Part 2 - PGPA annual report content requirements

This part provides details of the annual report content requirements as specified by the PGPA Rule, including: 

Annual report content requirements

 

Enabling legislation

The accountable authority of a corporate entity must include the following content in the annual report:

  • details of the legislation establishing the body
  • a summary of the objects and functions of the entity as set out in the legislation
  • the purposes of the entity as included in the entity’s corporate plan for the reporting period.

The actions of a corporate Commonwealth entity are guided by its enabling legislation. The annual report must include the information detailed above and is designed to give readers a high-level understanding of the entity.


Responsible Minister

The annual report must specify the current responsible Minister’s name and the name of any other responsible Ministers during the financial year being reported on. The title of the responsible Minister(s) must also be included.   


Ministerial directions and government policy orders

Annual reports must include details of any directions issued by the responsible Minister, or other Minister(s), under the enabling legislation of the corporate Commonwealth entity or any other legislation or legislative instruments.

The Australian Government may make a government policy order that specifies a policy that is to apply to one or more corporate Commonwealth entity. A corporate Commonwealth entity that is subject to a government policy order is required to include this information in its annual report.

The annual report must include the following:

  • any directions given to the entity by a Minister under an Act or instrument
  • any government policy orders that applied in relation to the entity during the period
  • details of the non-compliance, if the entity has not complied with a direction or order during a reporting period.
     

Annual performance statements

The annual report for a corporate Commonwealth entity must include the annual performance statements for the entity for the period.

The corporate plan and annual report are the bookends of the reporting cycle.

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For further information on the purpose and content requirements of the annual performance statements, refer to RMG No. 134: Annual performance statements for Commonwealth entities.


Significant non-compliance issues with finance law

The associated data template can be found under the Tools and templates in Appendix B
(Section 17BE (h) – (i) Significant non-compliance with the Finance Law).

The annual report must include the following:

  • a statement of any significant issues reported to the responsible Minister that relates to non-compliance with the finance law 
  • if a statement is included, then an outline of the action that has been taken to remedy the non-compliance must also be included.
The finance law incorporates the PGPA Act, any rules and instruments created under the PGPA Act, and Appropriation Acts.

This requirement is linked to section 19 of the PGPA Act, which requires accountable authorities of Commonwealth entities to notify their responsible Minister when significant issues have been identified.

For further information, see RMG No. 214: Notification of significant non-compliance with the finance law.

 

Additional requirements for the annual report content 

  • Information about the accountable authority
  • Organisational structure and location
  • Statement on governance
  • Related entity transactions
  • Significant activities and changes affecting the entity
  • Judicial decisions and reviews by outside bodies
  • Obtaining information from subsidiaries
  • Indemnities and insurance premiums
  • Audit committee
  • Executive remuneration
  • List of annual report requirements
  • Disclosure requirements for government business enterprises
The associated data template can be found under the Tools and templates in Appendix B
(Section 17BE (j),(i)-(v) – Accountable Authority).

The annual report for a corporate Commonwealth entity for a reporting period must include the following:

  • information on the accountable authority, or each member of the accountable authority, during the period including:
    • the name of the accountable authority or each member
    • the qualifications of the accountable authority or each member
    • the experience of the accountable authority or each member
    • for each member—the number of meetings of the accountable authority attended by the member during the period
    • for each member—whether the member is an executive member or non executive member.
  • For the purposes of annual reporting, an executive member is an employee of the corporate Commonwealth entity, responsible for executive functions in the management and administration of the entity. Non-executive members are independent of corporate management and not employee of the corporate Commonwealth entity.
The associated data template can be found under the Tools and templates in Appendix B
(Section 17BE (ka) – Management of Human Resources).

The annual report must include the following:

  • an outline of the organisational structure of the entity (including any subsidiaries of the entity).
  • statistics on the number of employees of the entity (with reference to ongoing employees and non-ongoing employees), at the end of the reporting period and the previous reporting period, in relation to each of the following:
  • an outline of the location (whether or not in Australia) of major activities or facilities of the entity.

All human resource statistics are to be calculated and reported on in an actual head count basis (number of employees) as at the end of each reporting period.

If an entity believes the level of disaggregation of employee data could result in significant risk of unintentional identification and consequential harm to a specific employee, then the entity has the discretion to report that employee’s data at a higher level without further disaggregation. It is important when considering this, that the level of aggregation of information doesn’t make the reporting “meaningless” or be seen to complicate other details.

As an example, the entity could count the employee in the Total figures, but not include them in the breakdown of the data, with a clarifying footnote as to why the Total figures differ from the sum of the breakdown of the data.

Annual reports must include information on the main corporate governance practices that the entity had in place during the reporting period. The content of this statement is at the discretion of the accountable authority; however, it is suggested that the review should include:

  • board committees of the entity and their main responsibilities
  • education and performance review processes for members of the accountable authority
  • ethics and risk management policies.

The annual report for a corporate Commonwealth entity for a reporting period must include the following:

The decision making process undertaken by the accountable authority for making a decision if:

  • the decision is to approve the entity paying for a good or service from another Commonwealth entity or a company, or providing a grant to another Commonwealth entity or a company
  • the entity, and the other Commonwealth entity or the company, are related entities
  • the value of the transaction, or if there is more than one transaction, the aggregate value of those transactions, is more than $10 000 (inclusive of GST).

If the annual report includes the information above, then the following must be included:

  • if there is only one transaction—the value of the transaction 
  • if there is more than one transaction—the number of transactions and the aggregate of value of the transactions.
     
A related entity means a Commonwealth entity or a company (a body) is a related entity of a Commonwealth entity or a company (also a body) if:
  • an individual is the accountable authority of both bodies
  • an individual is a member of the accountable authority, or a director of the board, of both bodies
  • an individual is a member of the accountable authority of one body and a director of the board of the other body
  • an individual is the accountable authority of one body and a member of the accountable authority, or director of the board, of the other body.

The annual report must include the decision making process undertaken by the accountable authority when it enters into a procurement or grant transaction where a member of the accountable authority holds a similar position in the organisation that provides the good or service or receives the grant. The organisation providing the good or service or receiving the grant may take the form of a Commonwealth entity, Commonwealth company or a private company.

The annual report must detail any significant activities and changes that affected the operations or structure of the entity during the financial year. This may include:

  • significant events, such as forming or participating in the formation of a company, significant partnership or trust
  • operational and financial results of the entity
  • key changes to the entity’s state of affairs or principal activities
  • amendments to the entity’s enabling legislation and to any other legislation directly relevant to its operation.

The annual report must include information on the most significant developments in external scrutiny of the entity that has occurred within the reporting period and the entity's response to that scrutiny.

This must include particulars of judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals that have had, or may have, a significant effect on the operations of the entity.

The annual report must also include particulars on any report on the operations of the entity given during the period by any of the following:

  • the Auditor-General, other than a report under section 43 of the Act (which deals with the Auditor-General’s audit of the annual financial statements for Commonwealth entities), or
  • a Committee of either or both Houses of the Parliament, or
  • the Commonwealth Ombudsman, or
  • the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, or
  • any capability reviews of the entity that were released during the period.

The annual report must provide an explanation of information not obtained from a subsidiary.

If the accountable authority was unable to obtain information from a subsidiary of the entity that is required to be included in the annual report, an explanation of the information that was not obtained and the effect of not having the information on the annual report must be included.

The annual report must provide details of any indemnity that applied during the period to the accountable authority, any member of the accountable authority or officer of the entity against a liability (including premiums paid, or agreed to be paid, for insurance against the authority, member or officer’s liability for legal costs).

Officer means a senior manager of the corporate Commonwealth entity.
The associated data template can be found under the Tools and templates in Appendix B
(Section 17BE (taa) - Audit committee).

The annual report must include the following:

  • a direct electronic address of the charter determining the functions of the audit committee for the entity
  • the name of each member of the audit committee during the period
  • the qualifications, knowledge, skills or experience of those member
  • information about each of those members’ attendance at meetings of the audit committee during the period
  • the remuneration of each of those members.

For further information on the repointing requirements for Audit Committees, see RMG No. 202: Audit Committees.

The associated data template can be found under the Tools and templates in Appendix B
(Section 17BE (ka) – Management of Human Resources).

Corporate Commonwealth entities are required to include information about executive remuneration.

For guidance on reporting executive remuneration refer to RMG No. 138: Commonwealth entities Executive Remuneration Reporting Guide for Annual Reports.

  • Entities must include a list of requirements in a consistent format, which is detailed in schedule 2A of the PGPA Rule, available in Appendix A of this guide and at www.legislation.gov.au.
  • The list of requirements must be included as an appendix to the annual report. If an item specified in the checklist is not applicable to an entity, it should be reported as “not applicable” rather than omitted from the list. Entities must also provide details of the location of the information in the annual report that addresses each of the mandatory requirements specified by the PGPA Rule.

The annual report for a reporting period for a government business enterprise that is a corporate Commonwealth entity must include the following information:

  • An assessment of:
    • significant changes in the entity’s overall financial structure and financial condition during the period.
    • any events or risks that could cause financial information that is reported not to be indicative of future operations or financial condition.
  • Dividends paid or recommended in relation to the period.
  • Details of any community service obligations the government business enterprise has, including:
    • an outline of actions the government business enterprise has taken to fulfil those obligations
    • an assessment of the cost of fulfilling those obligations.

Information may be excluded if the accountable authority of the government business enterprise believes, on reasonable grounds, that the information is commercially sensitive and would be likely to result in unreasonable commercial prejudice to the government business enterprise. The annual report must state whether such information has been excluded.

Part 3 – Other legislative requirements

Other legislative requirements

 

The operations that an entity reports on in its annual report can be affected by other legislation or legislative instruments. Such legislation can either be general in nature or specific enabling legislation of the entity.

Information required by other Acts or instruments to be included in the annual report must be included in one or more appendices to the report.

This part of the guide provides an overview of the other legislative requirements applicable to many entities. It is the responsibility of entities to consider whether the legislation applies to them.

Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Section 4 Annual reports

  • Each of the following entities must include the matters mentioned in subclause (2) in its annual report for a financial year:
    • A non-corporate Commonwealth entity within the meaning of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013;
    • a public authority.
  • The matters are:
    • initiatives taken during the year to ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers who carry out work for the entity; and
    • health and safety outcomes (including the impact on injury rates of workers) achieved as a result of initiatives mentioned under paragraph (a) or previous initiatives; and
    • statistics of any notifiable incidents of which the entity becomes aware during the year that arose out of the conduct of businesses or undertakings by the entity; and
    • any investigations conducted during the year that relate to businesses or undertakings conducted by the entity, including details of all notices given to the entity during the year under Part 10 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011; and
    • such other matters as are required by guidelines approved on behalf of the Parliament by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit.
For further information on the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 please see the Comcare website. If there are any questions please contact Comcare at general.enquiries@comcare.gov.au.

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

Section Section 311A Annual returns of income and expenditure of Commonwealth Departments

  • Subject to this section, the principal officer of each Commonwealth Department must attach a statement to its annual report setting out particulars of all amounts paid by, or on behalf of, the Commonwealth Department during the financial year to:
    • advertising agencies;
    • market research organisations;
    • polling organisations;
    • direct mail organisations; and
    • media advertising organisations;
    • and the persons or organisations to whom those amounts were paid.

Nothing in subsection(1) requires particulars of a payment made by a Commonwealth Department in a financial year to be included in a return if the value of the payment is less than or equal to the disclosure threshold.

The first return under this section need only contain particulars in relation to the period starting on the commencement of this section and ending on the next 30 June.

In this section:

  • Commonwealth Department means:
    • a Department of State of the Commonwealth; or
    • a Department of the Parliament established under the Parliamentary Service Act 1999; or
    • an Agency (within the meaning of the Public Service Act 1999).
  • Principal officer means:
    • in relation to a Department—the person holding, or performing the duties of, the office of Secretary of the Department; and
    • in relation to an Agency—the Agency Head (within the meaning of the Public Service Act 1999) of the Agency.

Note that the reporting on advertising and market research is not restricted to electoral matters. The Department of Finance offers further guidance on the different types of advertising.

The reporting threshold for each year is available from the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Section 516A  Annual reports to deal with environmental matters

Content of report

  • A report described in subsection (1), (4) or (5) relating to a body or person (the reporter) for a period must:
    • include a report on how the activities of, and the administration (if any) of legislation by, the reporter during the period accorded with the principles of ecologically sustainable development
    • identify how the outcomes (if any) specified for the reporter in an Appropriations Act relating to the period contribute to ecologically sustainable development
    • document the effect of the reporter’s activities on the environment
    • identify any measures the reporter is taking to minimise the impact of activities by the reporter on the environment
    • identify the mechanisms (if any) for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of those measures.

Note: The Auditor‑General Act 1997 lets the Auditor‑General audit a reporter’s compliance with these requirements.

  • In subsection:

      activities includes:
    • developing and implementing policies, plans, programs and legislation
    • the operations of a department, authority, company or agency referred to in this section.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has Section 516A Reporting Guidelines available on their website. The additional guidance helps entities decide which of their activities to report on. Sets of generic indicators have also been provided to assist agencies with ongoing monitoring of their Ecologically Sustainable Development and environmental performance.

Questions about the application of these requirements should be directed to esd.enquiries@environment.gov.au.

In the case of an entity that is defined as a ‘public service care agency’, compliance with the entity’s obligations under the Carer Recognition Act 2010 is required.

A public service care agency is defined in section 4 of the Carer Recognition Act 2010 to mean an agency as defined in the Public Service Act 1999 that is responsible for the development, implementation, provision or evaluation of policies, programs or services directed to carers or the persons for whom they care.

For further information about the obligations of entities under the Carer Recognition Act 2010, see the Carer Recognition Act Guidelines on the Department of Social Services website. Questions about the application of these requirements should be directed to carersupport@dss.gov.au.


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