Department of the Environment

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Publications archive - Annual reports


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2000-01

Environment Australia, 2001
ISSN 1441-9335

Corporate governance

Environment Australia continued its corporate reform agenda and the development of appropriate supporting performance measures.

A key decision-making forum in Environment Australia is the executive roundtable, the weekly meeting attended by the Secretary, deputy secretaries, division heads and executive officers of the Australian Antarctic Division and the Bureau of Meteorology. At the meeting, members of the executive discuss and make decisions on key issues relating to the management of the portfolio, as well as provide an update on key issues from across each area of the Department. Starting in 2000-01, a summary of outcomes from these weekly meetings was made available to all staff on the intranet.

In addition to the executive roundtable, the Secretary meets with deputy secretaries on a bi-weekly basis in the senior executive management meeting.

Environment Australia completed the second stage of an output pricing review in November 2000. Environment Australia's output pricing review stage two provided evidence of effective performance and good value for money. The sample of 31 detailed projects covering 30 per cent of the output cost was substantial, representative and facilitated accurate benchmarks. No adjustment to the Departments's output prices was made on the basis of the review. Environment Australia and the Department of Finance and Administration agreed that there is a need to follow up work undertaken in previous output pricing reviews to refine and substantiate data before any requests are made to Ministers for adjustments to Environment Australia's price of outputs. Environment Australia will continue to work with the Department of Finance and Administration to provide further information to test prices of outputs.

Environment Australia continued a market testing programme for corporate services started in early 2000. For the bulk of corporate services, the programme had progressed to the evaluation of tenders stage and decisions on the future provision of service are expected to be made progressively in 2001-02.

A simpler, more transparent output structure was used as the basis for the preparation of the 2001-02 Portfolio Budget Statements. The new structure is more closely aligned with Environment Australia's organisation structure and other reporting mechanisms, including the Department's revised website and the state of the environment reporting format.

The new structure is supported by simplified and more transparent performance indicators. Performance reporting will be enhanced through the regular reporting of achievements against these indicators. Performance indicators to address financial, human resources and other corporate activities will be refined in 2001-02. Environment Australia will then have a comprehensive set of performance information.

The new five-year corporate plan was launched in April 2001 and is similarly aligned with the new output structure, allowing a cascading effect through supporting divisional, branch, section and individual workplans. Such plans are supported by the Department's progression toward achieving the Investors in People standard. Investors in People is an internationally recognised quality standard that sets a level of good practice for improving an organisation's performance through its people.

The corporate plan is also supported by an annual strategic plan. The strategic plan highlights Environment Australia's key directions and challenges as well as identifying priorities against each departmental output and continuing organisational development.

Other internal and external planning and review mechanisms include:

Internal audit services are supplied by the Department's programme evaluation and audit unit, augmented by contracted audit services. The unit reports to the Programme Evaluation and Audit Committee. This committee was reformed during 2000-01 to be a smaller committee (five members), with a greater weighting towards independent members (two out of five are external to the Department), and more focused on broader governance issues. This committee is assisted by a sub-committee, the performance improvement committee, which considers evaluation and audit reports in more detail.

Audit reports identify risks and the resulting recommendations are accompanied by management responses. The audit reports are considered by the audit committees, which may call for additional action to address the risks identified.

Fraud risks are addressed through the fraud control sub-committee, which also reports to the Programme Evaluation and Audit Committee. An external consultant undertook a departmental fraud risk assessment during 2000-01, and a revised fraud control plan was drafted as a result.

Names of senior executives and their responsibilities

Senior executives in Environment Australia are the Secretary, the deputy secretaries, the division heads and the directors of the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Antarctic Division, as shown in the organisation chart.

These officers comprise the Executive, which has the responsibility for setting the strategic policy and priorities for the Department.

Senior management committees and their roles

Senior management committees in Environment Australia are:

Executive roundtable

Members are the Secretary (chairperson), deputy secretaries, Canberra-based division heads and the directors of the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Antarctic Division.
The executive roundtable sets the strategic policy direction and priorities for the Department.

Knowledge Management Committee

Members are the Chief Information Officer (chairperson), representatives from each of the Canberra-based divisions, the branch heads of the Environment Information and Technology Strategies Branch and the Corporate Relations and Education Branch and a representative from the Bureau of Meteorology. The committee provides leadership with respect to knowledge management in Environment Australia and seeks to improve the effectiveness and efficiency with which the Department's outcomes and outputs are achieved through improvements in knowledge management.

Department of Environment and Heritage Audit Committee

Members are the Deputy Secretary (chairperson), external members Tom Hayes AO and Jenny Morrison, senior executive level representatives from the Canberra-based divisions and representatives from the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Antarctic Division. The committee sets the annual work plan for evaluations and audits and oversees performance improvement and fraud control.

Risk Assessment Panel

Members are the Chief Auditor, Chief Finance Officer, and a representative from one of the Department's Canberra-based divisions. The panel monitors and assesses risk across the Department and advises the Department of Environment and Heritage Audit Committee and the Executive of the Department's risk profile.

Management of significant financial risk

Environment Australia has improved its management of risk. The control structure for the effective assessment and management of risk is underpinned by a chief executive instruction that requires risk management techniques and principles be applied in the planning, administration and delivery of programmes. Supporting guidelines enable staff to identify, quantify and manage risks.

During the year, Environment Australia put into action a new risk assessment strategy to address risk assessment, monitoring and reporting functions. This strategy includes:

The insurable risks of Environment Australia are identified annually as part of the Comcover insurance renewal process. Comcover is the Commonwealth's self-insurance arm. Environment Australia has developed procedures to provide for the reporting of actual and potential insurance claims and for half-yearly reporting to Comcover. One claim relating to insured risks was made under Environment Australia's Comcover policy.

In relation to the risks associated with injury to staff, Environment Australia is covered by Comcare, the Commonwealth's workforce insurance arm. Actions taken to reduce claims include the maintenance of the occupational health and safety unit within the People Management Branch. This unit disseminates information to staff on occupational health and safety issues and risks, conducts and coordinates workplace assessments to identify and remove or reduce risks, and provides rehabilitation case management to injured workers. Staff are provided with occupational health and safety awareness through orientation and other training programmes. There is also an occupational health and safety committee, and a network of health and safety representatives to assist in identifying and dealing with risks in the workplace. In some cases of specific risks Environment Australia may engage external experts to advise on risk elimination, reduction or management strategies.

Comcare conducts a planned inspection programme to assist Environment Australia measure its performance against a suite of criteria. Recently a number of areas were reviewed and Environment Australia is currently addressing the recommendations flowing from this inspection programme.

Ethical standards

During the year, Environment Australia conducted two pilot programmes in public sector ethics, at Booderee National Park and Canberra-based elements of the Department, using consultants from the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission. Further programmes are proposed.

Environment Australia's commitment to ethical standards is set out in the corporate plan, which states that Environment Australia shares the ethical values of the Australian Public Service. Environment Australia has a code of conduct in place, which is available on the intranet for the information of all staff. All new employees are given copies of the code of conduct, and the issue is covered in the orientation programme. The code contains policies on the receipt of gifts, and also contains questions and answers on commonly encountered ethical issues.

Environment Australia has developed comprehensive guidelines for the use of information technology facilities which are available on the intranet for all staff. Access to the information technology system draws the attention of users to the guidelines and warns against inappropriate use.

Environment Australia's service charter provides information to the public about rights and entitlements and the process for gaining access to them. In its dealings with clients, Environment Australia is committed to acting ethically with integrity, responsiveness, and responsibility.

Whistleblowing allegations are treated seriously and investigated in accordance with Environment Australia's whistleblower policy.

Bureau of Meteorology

Bureau of Meteorology employees have been made aware of appropriate ethical standards through wide dissemination of the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct. The Bureau of Meteorology Certified Agreement 2000-2001, which was distributed to all employees, included a copy of the standards. Internal training courses on the values and code of conduct were delivered to several work groups throughout the reporting period and induction courses for employees new to the Bureau included a session specifically addressing the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct. Public Service and Merit Protection Commission posters about ethical standards have been made available throughout the organisation as a visual reminder to staff of expected standards. In April 2001, a staff notice entitled Breaches of the Bureau of Meteorology's Code of Conduct was issued, clearly outlining the procedural requirements for determining whether an employee has breached the code of conduct.

As a means of ensuring currency with this topic, the Bureau continued to be represented on the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission's Performance and Conduct Network, with proceedings of meetings being minuted and distributed to relevant staff.

Australian Antarctic Division

The Australian Antarctic Division Certified Agreement 2000-2002 clearly establishes the Division's commitment to compliance with the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct. Engagement notices for new employees include specific reference to the values and to the need to avoid and disclose any potential conflict of interest. All employees receive a copy of the certified agreement on commencement of employment.

The Australian Antarctic Division also has in place an Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions Code of Personal Behaviour. This code reinforces the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct and applies to all persons participating in expeditions (both employees and non-employees). Compliance with the code of personal behaviour is a significant element of performance appraisal throughout an expedition.

The Australian Antarctic Division is currently consulting employees on the draft of a comprehensive guide to the use of information technology facilities, including email and internet access. The draft guide places significant emphasis on ethical use of these facilities.

Performance against the service charter

The Environment Australia Service Charter was implemented on 1 July 1998 and covers all clients outside the Department. The charter is posted on the intranet for staff and on the internet for clients.

The charter sets out the standards of service clients can expect from Environment Australia, clients' rights and responsibilities and how to find out more about the Department. The charter applies to everyone who has contact with Environment Australia, including other government agencies, community organisations, industry and members of the public.

A survey was undertaken in 1999-2000 to assess clients' perceptions of whether Environment Australia was adhering to each of the 10 standards listed in its charter. The results indicated that all standards were met, with the exception of a standard on providing reasonable time to comment on policy proposals, with which only 50 per cent of clients were satisfied. This survey is being repeated in July 2001 to assess the level of performance improvement against the service charter standards. Results were not available at the time of publishing this annual report.

Few complaints were received by Environment Australia. Most complaints appeared to be in relation to adverse decisions concerning grant applications, rather than against agreed service standards.

Environment Australia commenced a review process in late 2000-01 with a view to simplifying and updating the charter.

Social justice

In 2000-01, Environment Australia has considered ways to consolidate measures undertaken in the interests of social justice, and to internalise social justice measures in the operations of the Department. As part of the development of performance indicators to address financial, human resources and other corporate activities in 2001-02, the Department will look at including indicators on access and equity, as outlined in the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs' performance management framework for the Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society.