Portfolio overview

The Attorney-General’s portfolio covers a range of functions and policy areas, including legal services; national security and criminal law; integrity and anti-corruption matters; the Commonwealth justice system, including courts, tribunals, justice policy, and legal assistance, regulation and reform; protecting and promoting human rights; government records management; copyright; and support for Commonwealth royal commissions.

The Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) is the lead entity in the portfolio and is responsible for Australia’s law and justice framework and providing legal services to the Commonwealth. Further information is available from the department’s website.

In addition to AGD and the High Court of Australia, there are 16 entities within the portfolio that are responsible for delivering programs and initiatives in relation to law and justice. The portfolio’s material entities are AGD, the High Court of Australia and the Australian Federal Police.

On 1 July 2022 an Administrative Arrangements Order took effect which changed some of the responsibilities of the Attorney-General’s portfolio. The total expenses and average staffing level by entity for the portfolio will be updated in this overview following the Budget, expected in the third quarter of 2022, which will reflect these changes.

Audit focus

In determining the 2022–23 audit work program, the ANAO considers prior-year audit and other review findings and what these indicate about portfolio risks and areas for improvement. The ANAO also considers emerging risks from new investments and changes in policy or operating environments.

The primary risk identified for the portfolio relates to effectiveness and compliance risks for the department’s whole-of-government regulatory frameworks, particularly with respect to the Protective Security Policy Framework (most notably in relation to cyber security risks), resulting in a risk of inappropriate security mitigation strategies across the sector.

Specific risks in the Attorney-General’s portfolio relate to AGD’s grants administration, policy development, and regulation.

Grants administration

AGD uses grants hubs to administer various grant programs. Outsourcing the management of grant programs to service providers does not reduce accountability. AGD needs to obtain assurance from these service providers that the grants have been processed accurately, completely and in line with the department’s requirements.

Policy development

AGD’s implementation and administration of business-as-usual processes includes the development of a new Commonwealth integrity commission and leading the government’s response to the recommendations outlined by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work Report.

Regulation

AGD is responsible for whole-of-government regulation under the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework, Protective Security Policy Framework, freedom of information and privacy legislation, and the Lobbying Code of Conduct and Lobbyist Register. Audit work in these areas has highlighted that while policy frameworks have been established, compliance with frameworks across government entities has not been strong, particularly in relation to cyber resilience, which increases the risk that the strategies implemented are not appropriate.

Performance statements audit

The audit of the 2021–22 AGD annual performance statements will be conducted following a request from the Minister for Finance on 9 December 2021, under section 40 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The audit will be conducted under section 15 of the Auditor-General Act 1997.

The ANAO has highlighted two key risks for AGD’s performance statements:

  • Whether the methodology for reporting the results of performance measures and targets is designed to meet the requirements of the PGPA Rule, particularly where internal analysis is relied on to assess the quality of work produced by the department.
  • The timeliness and accuracy of evidence to support results for the significantly revised performance measures that were published in AGD’s 2021–22 corporate plan.

Financial statements and other audit engagements

Overview

On 1 July 2022 an Administrative Arrangements Order (AAO) took effect which included changes to the responsibilities of the Attorney-General’s portfolio. Entities which are now part of this portfolio are shown in Table 1. The risk profile for each entity is based on the 2021–22 financial statements which were prepared prior to the AAO on 1 July 2022 taking effect.

Table 1: Attorney-General’s portfolio entities and risk profile

 

Type of entity

Risk of material misstatement

Number of higher risks

Number of moderate risks

Material entities 

Attorney-General’s Department

Non-corporate

Moderate

0

2

Australian Federal Police

Non-corporate

Moderate

0

1

High Court of Australia

Low

0

1

Non-material entities 

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Non-corporate

Moderate

  

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity

Non-corporate

Low

Australian Financial Security Authority

Non-corporate

Moderate

Australian Human Rights Commission

Corporate

Moderate

Australian Law Reform Commission

Non-corporate

Low

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

Non-corporate

Low

Australian Institute of Criminology

Non-corporate

Low

Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre

Non-corporate

Low

Federal Court of Australia

Non-corporate

Low

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

Non-corporate

Low

Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman

Non-corporate

Low

Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

Non-corporate

Low

Office of Parliamentary Counsel

Non-corporate

Low

Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

Non-corporate

Low

Office of the Special Investigator

Non-corporate

Low

Other audit engagements (including Auditor-General Act 1997 sections 15 and 20 engagements)

Australian Financial Security Authority – Bankruptcy Act

ACT Community Policing statement of financial performance

ACT Community Policing statement of performance

         

Material entities

Attorney-General’s Department

AGD supports the Attorney-General. The roles of the department are to contribute towards a just and secure society by maintaining and improving Australia’s law, justice, security and integrity frameworks.

On 1 July 2022 an Administrative Arrangements Order (AAO) took effect which included changes to the responsibilities of AGD. The total budgeted financial statements by category for AGD will be updated in this overview following the Budget, expected in the third quarter of 2022, which will reflect these changes.

Financial statements audit

There is one key risk for the AGD’s 2021–22 financial statements that the ANAO has highlighted for specific audit coverage that the AGD will have responsibility for from 2022–23.

  • The completeness and accuracy of revenue and related balances from rendering of legal services, which is material to AGD’s financial statements and subject to judgements on revenue recognition.

In addition, the management of the Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme, which protects certain unpaid employment entitlements for employees who have lost their jobs due to the liquidation or bankruptcy of their employer was also considered a risk for the 2021–22 Attorney-General’s financial statements. The scheme was a material activity for AGD with complexity in the eligibility and payment amounts. This risk will now be considered as part of the 2022–23 financial statements for the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is responsible for the provision of police services in relation to laws of the Commonwealth, the provision of policing services to the Australian Capital Territory and external territories, combatting transnational serious organised crime and terrorism, disrupting crime offshore, supporting regional security, and protecting Australian interests and assets.

The AFP’s total budgeted expenses for 2022–23 are just over $1.7 billion, with 59 per cent of these expenses attributable to employee benefits, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Australian Federal Police’s total budgeted financial statements by category ($’000)

 
 

Source: ANAO analysis of 29 March 2022–23 PBS.

The key risk for the AFP’s 2021–22 financial statements is the recognition and measurement of payroll (particularly in light of underpayment of superannuation obligations).

High Court of Australia

The High Court of Australia is responsible for interpreting and applying the law of Australia; deciding on cases of special federal significance, including challenges to the constitutional validity of laws; and hearing appeals, by special leave, from federal, state and territory courts.

The High Court’s total budgeted assets for 2022–23 are just over $241.2 million, with 87 per cent of these assets attributable to land and buildings, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: High Court of Australia’s total budgeted financial statements by category ($’000)

 
 

Source: ANAO analysis of 29 March 2022–23 PBS.

The key risk for the High Court’s 2021–22 financial statements is the accuracy of the fair value attributed to land and buildings, as these are special-purpose assets with numerous unique features.