Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2008
Managing the department (continued)
The department strives to provide a high standard of service to its clients. These include: ministers; other Australian Government departments and agencies; state, territory and local government bodies; non-government organisations; industry; and members of the wider community.
The department values the views of its clients and stakeholders and acknowledges and values the rights of stakeholders to scrutinise its actions.
Formal and informal consultation is conducted with relevant external stakeholders in the course of policy development, and during the design and implementation of programs run by the department.
The department is committed to ensuring its employees maintain the ethical standards required of the Australian Public Service. Employees must comply with the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct. Comprehensive briefings are provided to new staff on this as part of the induction process. This is reinforced annually by the requirement that all individual performance agreements include a personal commitment to the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct.
The department also maintains a network of workplace contact officers to raise awareness about acceptable behavior in the workplace and to assist employees with concerns.
Detailed guidance is available to employees via the department’s intranet. The guidance includes a code of conduct specific to the department and procedures for handling suspected breaches. Guidelines available on the intranet also warn staff against the inappropriate use of information technology. The department’s whistleblower policy ensures that allegations are treated seriously and investigated promptly and independently.
The department advises and supports portfolio ministers through briefings, correspondence, website maintenance and office support services.
Slipstream ministerial workflow system
Implementation of Slipstream was effectively completed for the majority of the portfolio during the year. However, roll-out to users outside Canberra, notably Darwin and Hobart, has been delayed. The delay is a result of infrastructure problems (for example, different network access) and the need to devote resources to system changes associated with the change of government and subsequent administrative arrangements.
A significant change to the system was required to prevent staff in ministers’ offices having access to documents of the previous government. At the same time general users in the department needed to retain access for continuity of the business of government. The necessary changes were successfully introduced in December 2007.
In addition, the administrative arrangements of the new government included the establishment of the Department of Climate Change (DCC). Part of the support provided by DEWHA to DCC in its establishment phase is the use of Slipstream for DCC’s parliamentary workflows. Significant changes were required to the system to accommodate this use. For example, a completely separate set of action types and associated templates have been loaded into the system. This arrangement is expected to continue until DCC commissions its own workflow system.
|Financial year||Number of ministerial correspondences|
Workflow statistics for 2007–08
The department provides a fortnightly report to the executive and to the minister’s staff on workflows for briefings, correspondence, parliamentary questions, Cabinet and parliamentary business and legal, legislation and freedom of information matters. These reports provide a focus for the department’s executive team to develop strategy to improve performance.
In 2007–08, 21,820 items of correspondence were received by ministers and registered on the department’s database – an increase of 38% on the previous year’s total. The department again prepared over 3,000 briefing submissions for ministers. It aims to ensure a minimum five working-day period between the arrival of a submission in the minister’s office and when a decision was required.
The following table shows the growth in ministerial correspondence over the past five years. Despite a decline in correspondence received during the election period, a substantial increase since the election has contributed to a doubling of the overall quantity over the past two years.
The department’s Parliamentary Services Section monitors the timeliness and accuracy of briefs and draft correspondence provided to the minister. It uses rejection rates as a measure of accuracy. This provides a surrogate indicator of the minister’s satisfaction.
Services to the community
The department’s Community Information Unit receives requests for information and feedback on the department’s services. The unit also manages the department’s publications shopfront.
In 2007–08 the Community Information Unit responded to 49,695 enquiries from the Australian community; 43.8 per cent related to grant and rebate programs and 56.2 per cent were seeking general information about the department and its programs. The unit distributed 211,233 publications.
The department’s service charter for 2005–2008 sets out the standards of service clients can expect from the department and how to give feedback on performance. The charter is available at www.environment.gov.au/about/publications/charter.html or in hard copy by contacting the Community Information Unit toll free on 1800 803 772.
The Client Service Officer can be contacted at:
Client Service Officer
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: 02 6274 1323
Fax: 02 6274 1322
The department received 32 enquiries through its Client Service Officer in 2007–08. The majority of these were requests for information and assistance, which were forwarded to the appropriate work area for action.
Complaints about service
The department received 1 complaint through its Client Service Officer in 2007–08. The complaint was in relation to a delay in providing information.
While a handful of complaints were received about wildlife trade and seizures, these complaints are not related to service and were directed to the appropriate area for resolution.
Feedback on performance of service delivery
The department received 38 responses on its service delivery standards through its Client Service Officer in 2007–08. Of these 38 responses, 18 rated the department as providing adequate or excellent service and 19 rated the department as providing inadequate or poor service. Many of the negative responses were related to delays in providing information.
The department contributes to the Australian Government’s access and equity annual report, which reports on progress in implementing the Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society.
The department deals with culturally diverse groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Indigenous programs assist communities with land management and conservation issues. The department’s Indigenous Development Coordinator supports and promotes Indigenous recruitment and career development. The Culture Division promotes Indigenous broadcasting and maintenance of language and records.
Following implementation, the department’s Disability Action Plan 2008–10 will provide activities and actions particular to the needs of disabled people, both employees and clients of the Department. The Plan will complement the Workplace Diversity Strategy and aims to realise the objectives of the strategy in creating an inclusive work environment. For more information see the section on human resources in this chapter.
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