CEO Senate Estimates opening statement 2021
Chair and Committee Members
I am now beginning my fourth year as CEO of IPEA, and as I have over the past few years, I think it is important for IPEA to make an opening statement at the first Senate Estimates appearance of the year. Once again, I thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the previous year.
There have been many adjectives used to describe the year that was — unique, unprecedented, challenging, surreal, relentless and exhausting — are just a few. For parliamentarians and staff, I am sure it was all of these and more, as new ways of connecting with your electorates and continuing the important work of elected representatives were explored and implemented.
In March 2020, Ms Jillian Segal AO as Chair of the Members of the Authority and myself were co-signatories to a letter outlining expectations and support to all parliamentarians as we commenced this COVID-19 journey. This was followed up in October 2020 and February 2021, when IPEA released general information to parliamentarians to assist travel related decision making in the COVID-19 environment. Information included general guidance on mandatory quarantine periods before, during, after, and between parliamentary sitting periods either in Canberra and/or their home state or territory. It also included reimbursement considerations for cancelled travel and, the ongoing requirement to be personally responsible and accountable for travel, and be prepared to publicly justify expenditure.
As expected in 2020 there was a reduced volume of travel on commercial flights and associated travel expenses in general. However, parliamentarians and their staff continued to travel, especially within electorates. Likewise, IPEA's advice reflected these changing travel patterns, as well as a range of circumstance-specific quarantine questions.
With this as a backdrop, in August 2020, IPEA undertook our third annual and independent client satisfaction survey. This survey is an important feedback mechanism for IPEA and the engagement of parliamentarians and staff in providing this feedback is very much appreciated. This year there was some additional detail and depth in our survey results, as the methodology included both an online questionnaire and a series of one-on-one interviews. While participant numbers were slightly down from previous years, statistically the results remain valid. The 2020 survey identified that the overall level of satisfaction remained fairly consistent with 2019, except for a small increase in clients that were very satisfied overall. This trend is repeated throughout the report with a number of specific service areas showing increased client satisfaction. The results of these are on our website.
Likewise, IPEA's APS census results remain consistent across the two parameters of engagement and wellbeing tested in 2020. IPEA was ranked 21 out of 97 agencies for engagement, and moved into the top 10 agencies, with a ranking of seven out of 97 for wellness. These results reflect IPEA's significant focus on innovatively connecting and involving staff while working remotely. Significantly, IPEA continued to meet all published service level standards during 2020.
IPEA anticipates the first half of 2021 to be a busy time with increasing travel and completion and publication of the Auditor-General's performance audit on the Administration of Parliamentary expenses by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA), and the expected commencement of the legislative review of the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority Act (IPEA Act 2017). Both reports and their observations are welcomed and, together they will influence IPEA's future strategic direction.
As always, the provision of high-quality, timely, consistent and accurate services to parliamentarians and staff remains a high priority. With the potential post-vaccine return to pre-COVID-19 travel patterns and levels, IPEA is considering how to continue to meet or exceed expectations.
Thank you. I am available for questions.
Chief Executive Officer