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What is the role of the Merit Protection Commissioner?
The Merit Protection Commissioner (the Commissioner) is an independent statutory office holder appointed by the Governor-General.
It has an important role in helping agencies meet the requirements of the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and Code of Conduct. The Commissioner provides independent external review of actions that affect individual APS employees. In addition to administering the statutory review of actions scheme, there are a range of other responsibilities, as set out in sections 50 and 50A of the Public Service Act 1999.
The Commissioner is based in Canberra at the national office of the Australian Public Service Commission. It is co-located for administrative purposes.
Staff of the Australian Public Service Commission deliver these services on behalf of the Commissioner. These staff are located in Canberra and Sydney.
What does the Merit Protection Commissioner do?
The Commissioner supports high level ethical standards in the APS. The Commissioner's main statutory functions are:
- conducting independent reviews of employment actions including Code of Conduct decisions
- conducting promotion reviews
- conducting inquiries into whether APS employees have breached the Code of Conduct (fee for service)
- providing independent merit-based selection services (fee for service)
- performing functions for other government and non-government bodies.
The Commissioner assures the APS Values and Employment Principles are applied effectively by agencies, their agency heads and staff.
In most cases, the Commissioner recommends outcomes to agency heads.
If the Commissioner is not satisfied with an agency's response to recommendations, she may report the matter to the agency minister, the Prime Minister and the Parliament.
The exception is promotion reviews. Promotion review committees established under the Commissioner's authority make decisions that are binding on agency heads.
Why have a system of review?
Information on the legislative and policy basis for the APS system of review is available.
Consistent with the Act and Regulations, the Office of the Merit Protection Commissioner undertakes administrative reviews as quickly, and with as little formality as a proper consideration of the matter allows.
Employees are encouraged to tell their side of the story. A written record is provided outlining the reasons for an outcome.
An impartial, independent and fair system of review:
- supports the sensible business of public administration, is low cost and does not require legal representation to resolve issues
- upholds consistent, transparent and quality employment related decisions tailored to the APS
- encourages positive, respectful and professional working relationships
- enables agencies to learn from complaints and grievances and continually improve their management of employment disputes and decision-making.
The direct costs of resolving employment related matters through administrative, rather than legal recourse, is significantly lower.
Who is the Merit Protection Commissioner?
Ms Annwyn Godwin was appointed as Merit Protection Commissioner under section 52 of the Public Service Act 1999. Her first five year term commenced in 2008 and in 2013 she was reappointed for a second five year term.
Ms Godwin holds the dual appointments of Australian Public Service and Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioners. In December 2015 she was also appointed Norfolk Island Public Service Commissioner until 30 June 2016.
Ms Godwin joined the Australian Public Service in 1990 and has extensive experience in corporate and related fields. Her SES career has involved working with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Australian Customs Service.
She has represented Australia extensively at a variety of international forums. In 2016 she was invited by the OECD to work with the Mexican government on issues of integrity and anti-corruption. She is a member of the OECD Senior Public Integrity Officers' Forum and the APS Integrity Agencies Group.
Ms Godwin has published articles and is a sought after public speaker at conferences and forums within Australia and overseas.
She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a member of the Chairs of Audit Forum. She is involved in a wide variety of public sector initiatives including the IPAA mentor program, the Australian Government ICT awards panel and the ACT Public Service Excellence Awards.
She has taken time out from her public service career to experience a wide variety of private sector consultancy firms and organisations. These include PA Consulting, Ernst and Young, Blake Dawson Waldron and the ASX. Ms Godwin has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Melbourne University and a Masters of Business Administration from the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of NSW.