Model accountable authority instructions (AAIs) - RMG 206

The model AAIs are designed to assist accountable authorities to develop instructions and operational guidance that meet the specific needs of their entity. The PGPA Act provides accountable authorities with the flexibility to establish appropriate systems of internal control for their entity.

The model AAIs cover the core topics that are applicable to officials in most Commonwealth entities. The model AAIs are not intended to be prescriptive or exhaustive. 

Model AAIs for non‑corporate Commonwealth entities

Model AAIs for corporate Commonwealth entities

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Why have AAIs

AAIs enable the accountable authority to meet their general duties by setting out appropriate controls and directions for officials.  Accountable authorities are required to:

  • govern their entity in a way that promotes the proper use and management of the public resources for which they are responsible (section 15 of the PGPA Act)
  • establish and maintain an appropriate system of internal control for their entity, including measures for ensuring that officials of the entity comply with the finance law (section 16 of the PGPA Act).

Section 20A of the PGPA Act enables accountable authorities to give instructions to officials in their entities on any matter necessary or convenient for carrying out or giving effect to:

  • the PGPA Act or the associated rules
  • any relevant policies of the Australian Government, such as travel and cost recovery, to the extent that those policies are within the scope of the PGPA Act and rules (i.e. the policies relate to the use and management of public resources).

Any AAIs made under section 20A are binding on officials in the entity, because they are an instrument made under the authority of the PGPA Act and form part of the finance law.

Developing and maintaining AAIs

In issuing appropriate instructions, an accountable authority needs to consider the entity’s purposes, identify and assess the risks and balance them with the efficiency and effectiveness of the entity’s operations. Instructions should only be made on matters that are within the scope of the PGPA Act and associated rules.

AAIs need to be accessible to officials at all levels of the entity. Instructions need to:

  • be written in simple, plain language and provide clear directions on what officials are required to do to meet their duties and responsibilities in relation to resource management in the entity
  • closely align with internal financial delegations issued to officials (in particular, officials who exercise a delegation under the PGPA legislation require clear instructions on how the rules and policies ply to them)
  • not contain detailed procedural requirements (where necessary, step-by-step operational guidance can be set out in other documents, e.g. in operational guidelines or procedures)
  • be based on risk and proportionality appropriate to the circumstances of the entity.

AAIs and operational guidance need to be regularly reviewed to ensure that they remain appropriate and relevant. These reviews provide an opportunity to consider templates, forms and processes.

Using Model AAIs

Officials who are responsible for developing or updating AAIs for their accountable authority are encouraged to use the model AAIs as the basis for their instructions, rather than attempting to interpret the PGPA legislation themselves:

  • for new entities the model AAIs can provide the basis for the AAIs for the new entity
  • for existing entities the model AAIs can provide a checklist against which to compare and review existing AAIs.

The model AAIs consist of an introduction [PDF 760Kb] and six core parts:

  1. Corporate governance
  2. Procurement, grants and other commitments and arrangements
  3. Making payments
  4. Managing money
  5. Managing debts and amounts owing to the Commonwealth
  6. Managing relevant property

The core parts are further divided into sections that generally contain four divisions:

  • an introduction to help officials determine whether the instructions are relevant to their activities or actions
  • the model instructions (text in grey boxes) on the core requirements of the topic
  • suggestions for additional instructions (text in italics) that may be included where relevant to suit an entity’s specific needs
  • links to relevant legislative requirements, policy and guidance (for example, blue underlined text is linked to legislation and resource management guidance, and black underlined text is linked to another topic within the model AAIs).

Officials should note the following points when using the model AAIs:

  • The AAIs for your entity do not have to be called “accountable authority instructions” (e.g. a department could call its instructions “Secretary’s Instructions” to clarify who has issued the instructions and why officials must have regard to them).
  • The model AAIs contain a short introduction that entities can tailor for use as an introduction to their AAIs.
  • The introductory text at the start of each section in the model AAIs can be modified, or not included if it is not relevant or useful.
  • It is recommended that the wording of the model instructions (text in grey boxes) is generally not changed. If a minor change is required to reflect an important difference within a particular entity (for example, where an accountable authority uses a specific title), the entity needs to carefully consider any rewording and may wish to consult with Finance. Changing the wording of the model instructions may result in an entity misinterpreting PGPA legislation.
  • If an activity of an entity does not fit within a section in the model AAIs, the accountable authority may issue additional instructions under a separate topic within the entity’s AAIs.
  • Alternatively, if an entity does not undertake one or more of the sections covered in the model AAIs, the entity may choose not to address that section in its AAIs.
  • The table containing links to relevant legislative requirements, policy and guidance for each section must be completed to include links to internal delegations, guidance and resources.
  • Key terms in the model AAIs are defined in the Resource Management glossary on the Finance website.
  • Each of the core topics in the model AAIs is numbered. Entities may find it useful to number the sections, individual instructions and/or paragraphs within their AAIs.

Last updated: 20 February 2019