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Part 5: The department's response

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has 67 years of history delivering migration and visa services to our many clients. The successful delivery of these services has been achieved amidst a difficult and challenging operating environment – one which is both highly scrutinised
and contested as a key area of public policy.

The more recent history of the department is documented in many significant reviews, some that looked at specific incidents and issues, and others that looked more broadly at the department and its work. While in some cases these reviews have been critical of the department, they all acknowledge the
difficult circumstances in which our dedicated and hardworking officers operate. The great things achieved by the department over many years have been the result of the collective efforts of the committed, motivated and driven staff who work here. In saying this, personal commitment and effort is not
always enough. This Review looked at organisational capability and it is in this area where we need to shift our focus – in addition to our people, it is the strategy, systems and processes which we need to get right.

The Capability Review report ('the Report') acknowledges that the department has taken early steps to rectify some areas of concern, particularly around articulating the strategic direction of the organisation. This strategic direction is conveyed through the department's Strategic Intent and clearly articulates 'what we do' and 'how we do it'. The Report also refers to the department having 'an unusually wide set of responsibilities' including research, policy development, program management, service delivery, industry regulation and corporate services –
the Strategic Intent draws these into a coherent articulation of our policy and program responsibilities as well as our corporate foundations; people, performance and financial management. Our attempts to balance these responsibilities in the broader context of the previously mentioned scrutiny
and a need to deliver the core business of the organisation – the well managed movement and settlement of people – is a challenging but not insurmountable remit.

I would like to make the following preliminary comments against the six high level findings of the Report:

Risk and crisis management

The department has in recent years made headway in developing a more robust approach to risk management. Having said this, it is acknowledged that a more proactive approach is needed including a greater use of environmental scanning to inform our planning processes. Further, I acknowledge the findings
of the review with respect to the department having a risk-averse culture. While clearer guidance and escalation protocols are required for our decision-makers, we must also tackle the cultural issues that come from having operated in this manner for a number of years.

Higher whole-of-department planning and decision making processes

The department's business planning framework is now under review. The fundamental aims of this review are to simplify the process and engender greater support for planning right across the department. This will be coupled with an education process that aims to demonstrate the value of planning such
that its importance to the successful delivery of our programs cannot be underestimated.

Support for operational managers

A significant amount of responsibility for the delivery of our many programs rests with this cohort of leaders and managers. As the Report points out, it is only reasonable that they have the systems, tools and processes in place to support them. While some work has already been undertaken in this
area, particularly around individual performance management, a number of discrete projects will be put in place to address this issue. A focus on our


systems and programs will ensure that the requirements of our users are aligned with


governance, planning and prioritisation. This will be essential in making the most efficient and effective use of our



Corporate buy-in by



Significant work is already underway in a number of areas affecting the


cohort. This includes the recently finalised SES Remuneration and Performance Management Policy which clearly articulates the value I place on outcomes, leadership, and importantly, the corporate contribution of each and every


officer. One key area I plan to focus on is the degree to which the


are 'networked' externally; our interaction with central agencies is critical and the Report highlights that we have some work to do in this space.

Strengthen the department's functional capabilities in six specific areas: namely contract management, program management, ICT development, financial literacy and management, evaluation and knowledge sharing, and stakeholder management.

These six specific areas are as diverse as they are important. We will focus on them individually to ensure they no longer remain long-term areas of concern. This will also be managed through a number of targeted projects that focus on professionalisation and education in areas such as contract, financial,
stakeholder and program management.


While we have made headway in this area through the establishment of the Policy Innovation, Research and Evaluation Unit (PIREU) in recent years, an under-investment has stifled our ability to develop strategic, innovative solutions to our many challenges. I am also conscious that, generally speaking,
the department could place a higher degree of intrinsic value in innovation. I plan to address this quickly by investing in a stronger, overarching approach to strategy and innovation.

Concluding comments

As discussed earlier in this response, the department is not unfamiliar with the process of independent, external review. The department has for some years now demonstrated its commitment to transparency. Further, I understand that the Capability Review program is not about penalising agencies or departments
but about promoting excellence in public administration. In this vein, I acknowledge that there is significant room for improvement and for this reason I fully accept and embrace the findings of this Report. Our next challenge will be addressing each of the six key findings through detailed action planning
and embedding this process in our business.

I would like to thank the Australian Public Service Commissioner, Mr Stephen Sedgwick AO, for his commitment to the department's review and for providing a very high calibre team of senior reviewers and support staff. I would also like to personally thank the senior reviewers: Mr Ken Matthews AO, Ms
Kerri Hartland, and Ms Akiko Jackson for the balanced, considered and thoughtful application of their considerable expertise and experience. Their independent and impartial approach contributed significantly to the credibility of this review and further enhances the reputation of the Capability Review
program more broadly.

Finally, I am confident that


will be a better agency for our staff, for our clients and for the Government as a result of this Capability Review. If all agencies have a similar experience over the next few years, then the program will have gone a long way towards achieving the reforms outlined in Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for
the Reform of Australian Government Administration.

Martin Bowles PSM
A/g Secretary
Department of Immigration and Citizenship

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018