Ahpra’s governance and accountability framework (the Framework) establishes a common understanding of Ahpra’s governance and accountability structures.The Framework seeks to assure the public that Ahpra acts with appropriate oversight mechanisms, makes decisions with integrity, and achieves the statutory objectives contained in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law) as in force in each state and territory.
The National Law establishes various entities that operate within the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (National Scheme) including Ahpra, National Boards, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency Board (Ahpra Board), and health/performance panels.
Ahpra is a body corporate established under section 23 of the National Law; it is the national organisation responsible for implementing the National Scheme across Australia. Established with effect from 1 July 2010, Ahpra has central responsibility for overseeing and administering the National Law. Ahpra does this in conjunction with 15 National Boards (also established under the National Law), each of which performs functions in relation to a particular health profession.
The Framework separately identifies decision-making in relation to corporate governance matters and regulatory functions. A key purpose of the accountability and governance framework is to assure the public that Ahpra has the appropriate mechanisms to prevent regulatory capture and provides transparency in Ahpra’s processes. Regulatory capture refers to circumstances in which a regulatory agency may be unduly influenced by an interested group, rather than by the public interest.
Ahpra’s governance structures are consistent with it being a body corporate with a public function and reflect the legislative framework in which it operates. Ahpra has several oversight committees (the Ahpra Board and each of its committees), each of which is governed by its own Charter and has roles and responsibilities to oversee the effective and efficient performance of Ahpra’s regulatory role. Such committees provide independent scrutiny of Ahpra and assess Ahpra’s implementation of internal control and governance systems.
The Ahpra Board is established under section 29 of the National Law. It is Ahpra’s governing body and is responsible for achieving Ahpra’s statutory objectives. The Ahpra Board is appointed by the Ministerial Council and is overseen by a Chair. The Ahpra Board is governed by the Ahpra Board Charter, which sets out its purpose, responsibilities and functions.
The Ahpra Board decides Ahpra’s policies (subject to any directions from Health Ministers) and ensures Ahpra performs its functions in a proper, effective and efficient way. The Ahpra Board appoints the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who is responsible for the day-to-day management of Ahpra.
Under section 29 of the National Law, the Ahpra Board must consist of at least five members, including:
There are currently seven members of the Ahpra Board. All are appointed by the Ministerial Council following a recruitment process. Members are appointed for a maximum three-year term. The membership requirements support the fair participation of different interests in the decision-making process of the Ahpra Board. The diversity of the membership ensures that no group is inadvertently excluded from the decision-making process and is a fair representation of community expectations.
Members of the Ahpra Board:
These sub-committees do not make final and binding decisions on the matters brought before them; rather, they make recommendations to the Ahpra Board. The Ahpra Board makes the final decision on all matters, taking into account recommendations made by, and advice from, these sub-committees.
FARMC is the principal sub-committee of the Ahpra Board for overseeing risk management at the enterprise level. FARMC is governed by the Finance, Audit and Risk Management Committee Charter, which details its purpose, responsibilities and functions.
FARMC consists of up to seven members including at least:
FARMC is responsible for providing leadership, strategy and assurance in relation to:
FARMC is also the contact point for the external auditors, including but not limited to reviewing the external auditors’ report and making recommendations to Ahpra Board about any unresolved concerns. Ahpra uses the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) to conduct external audits.
RPC is a sub-committee of the Ahpra Board that assists in overseeing the management of regulatory performance, including registration, notifications and compliance matters and advising on regulatory performance measures and associated performance reports. RPC is governed by the Regulatory Performance Committee Charter, which details its purpose, responsibilities and functions.
RPC consists of:
RPC is responsible for providing advice and recommendations in the following areas:
PARC is a sub-committee of the Ahpra Board that provides oversight of strategy and performance in relation to people, capability and culture within the National Scheme. PARC is governed by the People and Remuneration Committee Charter, which details its purpose, responsibilities and functions.
PARC consists of up to eight members including, at least:
PARC is responsible for providing advice and recommendations in the following areas:
The Accreditation Committee is the fourth sub-committee of the Ahpra Board; it provides independent and expert advice on accreditation reform and other National Scheme accreditation matters to National Scheme entities. The Accreditation Committee is governed by the Accreditation Committee Charter, which details its purpose, responsibilities and functions.
The Accreditation Committee has an independent chair and members who are drawn from categories determined by Ministerial Council. The membership categories are:
The Accreditation Committee is responsible for:
There are five senior executives who report to Ahpra’s CEO. They are:
Together with the CEO, they form Ahpra’s National Executive (NE).
NE is the main national leadership group within Ahpra. It exists to make decisions and provide advice to the CEO and through the CEO to the Ahpra Board on:
Collectively, NE is responsible for decision-making about cross-directorate and organisational-wide issues. NE has the authority to issue directions to all directorates through established management structures.
Ahpra and the National Boards regularly consult with advisory groups to gather feedback, information and advice on a wide range of issues. These groups include:
Each of the above groups is designed to ensure the interests of a wide range of stakeholders are considered in the decision-making process.
Ahpra is a separate entity from the Commonwealth government. It is not an instrumentality or agency of the Commonwealth government. It is not established under Commonwealth legislation and is not funded by the Commonwealth.
Ahpra is not part of any state or territory government department. However, Ahpra is a body established by state and territory laws and performs public functions under those laws.
Under the National Law, Parliament has conferred functions and powers on Ahpra. Ahpra:
Ahpra is accountable to Parliament through a Ministerial Council comprising Health Ministers from each state and territory and the Commonwealth, which oversees the National Scheme under the National Law. They currently meet as the Health Ministers Meeting (HMMs) (formerly the Council of Australian Governments (COAG))
The HMMs will periodically issue communiqués, policy directions, guidance and directives relevant to the National Scheme. The HMMs also decide reforms to the National Law.
Ahpra is also accountable to the Jurisdictional Advisory Committee (JAC) and may from time to time be subject to oversight by Senate inquiries.
In addition to oversight by Parliament and the relevant Minister, Ahpra’s decisions can be subject to review by the courts, state-based administrative tribunals, and the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman (NHPO). The NHPO acts as an independent external person overseeing the discharge of Ahpra’s regulatory functions and Ahpra’s privacy compliance (including the handling of personal information).
Ahpra is subject to a range of statutory obligations relating to corporate, financial and regulatory obligations.
The Delegation, Sub-delegation and Administrative Authorisation Manual (the Delegation Manual) is an internal ‘rule book’ that assists Ahpra to provide a robust system of corporate governance and accountability. The Delegation Manual ensures that a consistent approach is taken to the development, amendment, and implementation of decisions under the National Law and related general, human resources and financial decisions.
Ahpra is required to prepare annual reports1 that include financial statements and detail on Ahpra’s performance. Annual reports are provided to HMMs and tabled in the Parliament of the Commonwealth and each participating jurisdiction.
Ahpra is financially separate from state, territory and Commonwealth governments. Ahpra holds funds for itself and the Boards, and those funds are not part of the consolidated revenue of any government. Section 208(1) of the National Law establishes the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency Fund (the Agency Fund).
The National Law imposes certain obligations on Ahpra and the National Boards regarding the management and use of the Agency Fund. The financial arrangements under the National Law (in very broad terms) are as follows:
The Agency Fund
The National Law sets out the following rules for the Agency Fund:
The National Law establishes the Agency Fund to receive:
Monies may be paid out of the Fund to:
The National Boards have the power to delegate their regulatory powers under the National Law. These delegations are contained in:
Members of the National Boards and their committees have similar obligations as members of the Ahpra Board including that they:
The National Law stipulates that National Boards must engage in a consultation process when developing registration standards, codes and guidelines. At the conclusion of the consultation process, consultation reports are published on the Ahpra webpage, demonstrating transparency in the decision-making process of the National Boards.
The Regulatory Guide (the Guide) comprehensively sets out how Ahpra and the National Boards manage notifications about the health, performance and conduct of practitioners in accordance with Part 8 of the National Law. The Guide is intended to explain the decision-making framework in a clear and transparent manner. The Guide provides the public with information about how certain regulatory decisions are made, ensuring that Ahpra and the National Boards make impartial decisions consistently with the principles set out in the Guide.
Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth)
Ahpra is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (as modified by the National Law) (FOI Act). Under the FOI Act there is a requirement to publish documents as required by the Information Publication Scheme (IPS) for Australian Government Agencies. As a result, Ahpra publishes a wide range of its internal governance and policy documents on its website so they are available to the public.
Public interest disclosure (PID)
All states and territories have public interest disclosure legislation (PID Legislation) that governs public interest disclosures (PIDs), but not all of these Acts apply to Ahpra and the Boards. PID Legislation aims to protect people who make PIDs about serious wrongdoing in the public sector (also known as ‘whistleblowers’).
Ahpra has established a policy for dealing with PIDs, which is designed to encourage any person who has a serious concern about possible improper conduct or corrupt conduct in the administration of the National Law to disclose that concern.
The Policy is available on Ahpra’s webpage.
1 National Law, section 8.
2 National Law, section 216
3 National Law, Schedule 4, Clause 7
4 National Law, Schedule 4, Clause 8
Ahpra’s Code of Conduct (the Code) and associated policies guide and inform the expected behaviour of Ahpra employees. Ahpra’s values of respect, integrity, collaboration and achievement underpin the way that all employees are expected to work, make decisions and interact with others. The Code imposes responsibilities on Ahpra staff, including the requirement to seek permission for secondary employment, as this may give rise to an actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest. Adherence to the Code, associated policies and procedures, and Ahpra’s values fosters a culture of integrity, as a consistent standard of behaviour is expected in the actions and decisions of staff.