The Department

3.3 Services to Australian Government Agencies Overseas

Table 28: Resources Summary for Sub-program 3.3

Figure 37: Services to Australian Government Agencies Overseas Program and Organisational Structure as at 30 June 1998

Sub-program Objectives

In 1997-98, the objective of sub-program 3.3 was to:

  • provide an efficient, reliable and cost-effective framework of administrative support for the activities of Australian government agencies and departments operating overseas.


The Finance Management Branch and the Staffing Branch of the Corporate Management Division, and the Services and Property Branch of the Passports, Services and Security Division administer the sub-program. All Australian overseas posts contribute to the sub-program.

The sub-program pursues strategies designed to help achieve one of the Department’s corporate goals: to provide clients with highly professional, efficient and effective services. Strategies include providing administrative support and information technology services to government agencies and departments operating overseas; expanding and improving the delivery of administrative support services to overseas operating agencies; and with other agencies, managing the expansion of user-pays principles to overseas property estate.

Performance Information

In 1997-98, the Department indicated that it would evaluate its performance using:

  • post management and other agencies’ satisfaction with the provision of administrative support services and management of overseas property issues
  • successful introduction and review of ‘user pays’ to administrative support services and the overseas property estate (within budget limits).

Performance Outcomes

In consultation with other overseas operating agencies, the Department developed the Common Administrative Services Agreement to succeed the International Administrative Services Agreement. The new agreement, which these agencies have widely accepted, will ensure transparent and cost-effective delivery of departmental services to agencies operating overseas.

Photo: Assistant Secretary, Finance Management Branch, Peter Baxter (seated left), and representatives of other APS agencies at the signing of the Common Administrative Services Agreement in June in Canberra.

To prepare for the new Public Service Act, the Department conducted a pilot program to test the viability and efficiency of devolving responsibility to posts for locally-engaged staff (LES) conditions. When the Public Service Bill failed to pass, the Department shifted the key focus of its program from devolution to simplifying existing procedures, improving LES performance management systems, reviewing establishment and skills requirements and achieving best practice in LES management. As a result of strategic internal reform and the resource management action plan, during the review period, the Department localised 50 Australia-based positions and increased LES positions by 4 per cent.

This was the first year of a new system wherein other government agencies assumed direct responsibility for their property costs. The Department responded by devolving responsibility to posts for overseas property interests and associated budgets, resulting in significant new efficiencies in managing the overseas estate, particularly reducing excessive regulation and reporting. Although administering the individual agency prerogatives of posts under the new user-pay arrangements remains complex, the Department intends to improve further the arrangements during the next transition year. All DFAT-administered overseas posts successfully contained property expenditure within limits the Department set.

The Department is the lead agency for providing information technology and telecommunications services to other Australian government agencies at overseas posts. In the review period, the Department signed new agreements with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the Department of Social Security to provide information technology and telecommunications services to officers of these agencies overseas. Relationships with all agencies serviced by the Department were enhanced through a renewed client focus; this was well received and resulted in new business opportunities for the Department. Through information sessions and mail-outs, the Department also ensured that clients were kept informed of departmental directions and strategies, and their interests considered in decision-making processes.

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