Initial priorities

Certain actions are key to supporting the operational set-up of a new Commonwealth entity, however there is no sequential approach. The most significant initial priority is having the key senior people for the new entity.

Key people

The engagement of key senior people needs to be made early to provide strategic direction in the operational set-up of a new Commonwealth entity. Having the right people available to make necessary decisions will facilitate many of the actions in this guide. Below are the key people and the role they may have described. It is important to keep in mind that each Commonwealth entity will have an organisational structure suitable to their size and purpose, and may not need all the people described below.

Who are your key people?

These people have control in key areas of operation for a new Commonwealth entity such as - governance, finance, staffing, legal and, the provision of oversight and strategic direction.

Accountable authority

All Commonwealth entities are governed by an accountable authority who is the person or group of persons that has responsibility and control over the entity’s operations. The accountable authority of your entity will be designated in an Act or the PGPA Rule. Typically the accountable authority’s position title will be Chief Executive Officer or the board of directors but there are many other position titles such as Director, Commissioner, or Chair.

In governing their entity the accountable authority has oversight of decisions made during set-up to ensure proper use of resources, financial sustainability and the performance of the entity in achieving its purposes and the establishment of appropriate systems of risk management and internal control.

Chief Executive Officer who is not the Accountable Authority

When a governing board is the accountable authority not all of the board members may have been appointed while the new Commonwealth entity is being set-up. The engagement of the Chief Executive Officer will be beneficial in supporting the accountable authority in making key decisions in the operational set-up.

Other key leadership people

The following roles are common in a Commonwealth entity depending on the size and structure of your organisation. Broad descriptions of the role these people may have is provided below but will differ according to the needs of your Commonwealth entity.

Chief Financial Officer

Chief Financial Officers are responsible for organisational financial planning, management, compliance, risk and advice. They also monitor and maintain financial allocations and budgets and provide strategic advice to senior executives.

Your Chief Financial Officer will ensure a new Commonwealth entity meets its financial reporting obligations such as monthly estimates and actuals during initial operations.

Chief Operating Officer

Chief Operating Officers oversee the internal operations of a Commonwealth entity in accordance with the strategic direction set by the accountable authority. Typically they can be responsible for staffing, internal operating policies, the entity’s performance reporting and other workplace support systems. Where there is not a Chief Information Officer they may oversee the IT arrangements for an entity.


The diagram below is a representation of key people engaged early in the set-up of a new Commonwealth entity and their typical responsibilities. How this occurs in practice will reflect a number of factors unique to your entity including your purpose and other governance arrangements.

New Commonwealth entity - key people

New commonwealth entity key people graph

Requirements for making appointments

You will need to be aware of any requirements to be followed in the appointment of key people such as those in the Cabinet Handbook for appointments under enabling legislation. Where the accountable authority will be an Australian Public Service agency head and staff will be engaged under the Public Service Act 1999, the appointment must be in accordance with the Government's Merit and Transparency Policy.


More information on Appointments & staffing is available under Key Topics.

Other priorities

Each new Commonwealth entity will need to assess for themselves how to prioritise other aspects of their operational set-up to reflect their circumstances. However to assist your planning some typical priorities are provided below.

Legal Counsel

Many actions taken in setting up a new Commonwealth entity can require legal expertise. For example, staffing and recruitment, the preparation and drafting legal documents that your entity may need as soon as it commences operations and, considering the contracts being entered into. During the initial period of set-up it can be of benefit to have in-house legal expertise.

Memorandums of Understanding and piggybacking

Memorandums of Understanding established with your portfolio Department or a relevant existing Commonwealth entity can be used to provide the access to the necessary accommodation, funding and IT during the new entity’s set-up phase.

Piggybacking may also be a swift, efficient, and value for money option to assist in the initial set-up phase of a new Commonwealth entity. Piggybacking is a form of cooperative procurement where an entity accesses another entity's established contract or standing offer arrangement. It enables entities to reduce expenditure by sharing administration costs and utilising their combined economies of scale.


Information Technology

Staff who are undertaking the set-up of a new Commonwealth entity will need access to necessary IT before a formal procurement/leasing process.

Memorandums of understanding and piggybacking can assist getting quick access to IT.

You should also refer to information on buying IT in IT & security under Key Topics.

If you are considering piggybacking you should refer to the information on the Cooperative agency procurement page.

More information on Purchasing goods and services is available under Key Topics.


There are many key decisions and arrangements to be made relating to the staffing of a new Commonwealth entity including how the new entity will be staffed initially. Will staff be seconded from other entities, transferred or recruited?

Recruitment actions and other staffing decisions will be governed by the employment framework of your Commonwealth entity. The employment framework will have been decided when your entity was legally established. If your entity was established as an Australian Public Service (APS) agency, the employment framework is outlined in the Public Service Act 1999. Where a new Commonwealth entity is not employing staff under the Public Service Act 1999 then the arrangements to recruit staff and their terms and conditions will be made by key senior people, in accordance with any applicable legislative requirements and other policies.

In the early phases of operation new Commonwealth entities often use staff from other relevant Commonwealth entities who can assist in getting operational sooner.

Secondment arrangements and temporary transfers may be possible in the initial stages until recruitment action to fill staff roles can be finalised. It is important to know that there are a range of different secondment arrangements that are typically entered into. If you will be seeking to use secondments or temporary transfers from an existing Commonwealth entity then this will need to be arranged and agreed with that entity. Secondments can occur between APS and non-APS agencies.

Secondment examples

Temporary Transfer

Employees can move from one APS agency to another APS agency temporarily under section 26 of the Public Service Act 1999.

An employee becomes a temporary employee of the host entity while still maintaining a position at their home entity.

Secondments possible between APS and non-APS agencies

Free of charge

The employee remains an employee of their home entity and salary and on-costs are paid by their home entity. 

Reimbursement or recovery 

The employee remains an employee of their home entity and salary and on-costs are paid by their home entity. Recovery of the cost of the employee’s salary and on-costs are sought from the host entity.

The Australian Public Service Commission can provide advice on the recruitment of APS staff and the movement of APS staff between entities.

Department of Finance can provide advice on financial aspects of secondments. Refer to contacts on Funding & financial under Key Topics.

More information on Appointments & staff is available under Key Topics.


The accommodation arrangements for a new Commonwealth entity will vary depending on factors like the length of time available to set-up operations. Transitional arrangements are likely to occur where an entity has been required to commence operations in a short time frame. These arrangements may be made with your portfolio Department of State or an existing Commonwealth entity in your location. Before making any accommodation purchase, lease or sub-lease arrangements you need to contact the Department of Finance to understand what your viable options are.

More information on Accommodation is available under Key Topics.

Funding and financial

You will need to understand the decisions on funding like appropriations that have already been made when your entity was legally established. Arrangements will need to be made for the entity to quickly access necessary funding to pay salaries, procurement expenses etc. You will need to undertake a number of initial tasks to be able to access, manage and use the public resources available to the entity in a timely and proper manner.

You should also be aware of your financial reporting requirements such as monthly actuals and estimates to ensure you meet obligations that apply in the early stages of operation. 

This guide provides information on requirements for the operational financial set-up of your entity including monthly financial reporting in Funding & financial under Key Topics.

Stakeholder relationships

New Commonwealth entities have a range of stakeholders and an awareness of how to manage those relationships will be a priority including communication with your responsible Minister’s Office. Your portfolio department will be able to advise you on Ministerial preferences, access to the Parliamentary Document Management System and processes for supporting Senate Estimates hearings and Question Time.

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