As the recently appointed Merit Protection Commissioner, I am pleased to introduce this annual report. The work done by the staff of the Merit Protection Commissioner is an integral element of the broader accountability and integrity framework for the Australian Public Service.
An important focus of our work involves providing the statutory scheme for review of employment-related actions; this scheme entitles APS employees to seek independent review of such actions if they are affected by them. We also administer the framework for the review of promotion decisions, and I am able to conduct inquiries as specified in the Public Service Act 1999 (including into alleged breaches of the APS Code of Conduct). The Public Service Act also provides for related fee-for-service work to be performed.
The year 2017–18 was unusual and challenging: the former Merit Protection Commissioner left the role on 31 December 2017 and a staff member became acting Merit Protection Commissioner for the ensuing six months, and there were staff movements and positions left vacant during the year. Despite this, the MPC staff managed the caseload effectively and continued to engage in proactive and value-adding activities such as outreach to APS agencies and making contributions in policy areas. These activities and achievements are outlined in this report.
In terms of accomplishments and the performance of my Office during 2017–18, it is important to acknowledge the two individuals who shared the position of Merit Protection Commissioner for most of the year, Ms Annwyn Godwin and Mr Mark Davidson. They both deserve credit for their achievements. It is also important, however, to recognise the work of both those individuals for different reasons.
Ms Annwyn Godwin served as Merit Protection Commissioner for a decade, during which time there were major changes to the APS operating environment. This required Ms Godwin to lead the office in adapting to the changes while continuing to promote and uphold the principle of merit and good public administration. Ms Godwin provided long and distinguished service in this position, and she should be commended—as should the staff who worked with her—for the contributions made to the accountability and integrity framework.
After Ms Godwin departed, Mr Mark Davidson was appointed Acting Merit Protection Commissioner from 1 January 2018 until my appointment on 25 June 2018. It is fair to say that it can be challenging to lead during a period of uncertainty and challenges, but Mr Davidson did this successfully. He performed the role with integrity, diligence and professionalism and brought credit to the Office during a difficult period.
Finally, I thank and acknowledge the staff of the Australian Public Service Commission for the service they provided throughout the year; this includes staff who worked directly on the functions of the Merit Protection Commissioner and those who provide support services to my Office, particularly in the corporate and legal areas.
Merit Protection Commissioner