There are four main oversight bodies in NSW:
- the NSW Ombudsman
- the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
- the Audit Office of NSW
- the Information and Privacy Commission of NSW (IPC).
Oversight agencies conduct audits and investigations and follow up on complaints. They are also an important source of advice and education. Most executives only ever have contact with oversight bodies during efforts to improve compliance, as a part of regular audits or when raising awareness about compliance requirements among their employees. As a senior executive, you should always co-operate with and assist oversight agencies in their operations and enquiries.
The NSW Ombudsman is an independent and impartial agency whose job is to watch over most public and some private sector agencies to ensure their employees fulfil their functions properly. The Ombudsman helps agencies to understand their responsibilities to the public, to act reasonably and to comply with the law and best practice in administration. The Ombudsman also has specific functions under the Ombudsman Act 1974 related to:
- the causes and patterns of deaths of children and people with disabilities in care
- decisions of public sector agencies
- public interest disclosures
- monitoring and assessment of designated Aboriginal programs.
The Ombudsman focuses on improving the conduct and decision making within agencies. Traditionally, this involves the Ombudsman responding to a complaint by recommending actions the agency should take to resolve it.
The Office of the Ombudsman also delivers education and training programs, and releases a range of publications – including guidelines and fact sheets – to support agencies perform their functions.
Independent Commission Against Corruption
The ICAC is an independent organisation established to protect the public interest, prevent breaches of public trust and guide conduct of the NSW public sector. ICAC’s principal functions are set out in the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (ICAC Act), which in summary are to:
- investigate and expose corrupt conduct in the NSW public sector
- actively prevent corruption by providing advice and assistance
- educate the NSW community and public sector about corruption and its effect.
The ICAC also delivers a number of corruption prevention workshops to help public sector agencies examine how their operations are designed and identify ways to create a corruption-resistant environment.
Under the ICAC Act, the principal officer of a public authority is under duty to report to the ICAC any matter that the person suspects on reasonable grounds concerns or may concern corrupt conduct.
Audit Office of NSW
The Audit Office of NSW is the independent auditor of the NSW public sector; it reports directly to Parliament on the NSW Government’s financial statements and use of public money. The Audit Office of NSW principally conducts its financial and performance audits under the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 and the Local Government Act 1993.
Financial audits provide an independent opinion on the financial statements of NSW government agencies, universities and councils. They also determine whether these statements comply with accounting standards and relevant laws, regulations and government directions.
Performance audits build on these financial audits by reviewing whether public money has been spent efficiently, effectively, economically and in accordance with the law.
The Audit Office sometimes conducts special audits to determine whether a NSW government agency, university or council has adhered to specific legislation, directions or regulations.
Information and Privacy Commission of NSW
The IPC is a separate agency that administers NSW legislation dealing with privacy and access to government information. In doing so, it helps to ensure that agencies and individuals have access to consistent information, guidance and training about information, access and privacy matters.
IPC reviews agency performance and decisions. It also investigates and conciliates complaints relating to public sector agencies, health service providers (public and private) and some large organisations that deal with health information.
IPC provides a variety of information (including fact sheets and guides), advice, assistance and training to agencies and members of the public.