Publications archive

Department of the Environment and Heritage annual report 2004-05

Volume one
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005
ISSN 1441 9335

Managing the department (continued)

Corporate governance

Corporate governance means the processes by which the department is directed, controlled and held to account. It encompasses:

Main results

New performance management framework

In December 2004 the department reviewed its outputs and performance indicators based on the government’s performance management framework.

After absorbing the Australian Greenhouse Office and National Oceans Office the department listed 14 outputs in its additional estimates statement (see page 10). The department simplified this to seven outputs linked to major areas of work. The new outputs are a better fit to the department’s structure and functions.

In reviewing the performance indicators the department focused on ways to measure the effectiveness of its programmes. The review led to a more streamlined and focused set of indicators that recognise the challenges of measuring performance in the health of the environment, where outcomes are achieved over timeframes much longer than the annual reporting cycle.

The new outputs and performance indicators appeared in the 2005-06 portfolio budget statements (see The department will report against this framework in its annual report due for tabling in October 2006.

Review of governance framework

During the year the department reviewed aspects of its governance framework against better practice requirements in the areas of strategy and planning, operations of the executive committees, statutory compliance, organisational policies and ethical behaviour. The review was undertaken as part of the work programme for the department’s Audit Committee (see ‘Committees of the Executive Roundtable’ below). The review found that the governance framework is operating effectively, incorporates a number of better practice and innovative features, and is seen by the department’s senior executives to be meeting the needs of the department and the wider portfolio.

To give a focus to corporate governance practices and functions, the department set up a new audit and governance unit. The unit will oversee and report to the executive on programme and project planning and implementation. It will manage the department’s audit functions, support the department’s Audit Committee and the committee’s Risk Assessment Panel, and continue to enhance governance arrangements in the department.

See also: governance arrangements for purchasing.

Uhrig Review

At the Prime Minister’s request Mr John Uhrig AC reviewed corporate governance arrangements for statutory authorities and office holders, handing down his report—the Uhrig Review—in June 2003. The government endorsed all of the Uhrig Review’s recommendations and began implementing them in August 2004 (see

The first stage of the government’s response is to assess statutory authorities in each portfolio against the principles of governance in the Uhrig Review. The department is coordinating this work across the environment and heritage portfolio. During 2004-05 the department completed assessments of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator.

Work is under way to complete the remaining assessments of the Director of National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The Uhrig assessment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will be completed within the government’s broader review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.

The department is well advanced in the implementation of the Uhrig recommendations, with all assessments expected to be completed ahead of the March 2006 deadline.

Senior management

The secretary makes decisions affecting the department’s business in consultation with the senior managers of affected divisions of the department. Senior managers communicate key decisions directly to employees who are affected by the decisions and via the department’s intranet.

The names and responsibilities of the department’s senior managers are shown in the organisation chart.

Executive Roundtable

The Executive Roundtable is the portfolio’s key senior management forum. It meets weekly to monitor performance and review significant issues. Members are the secretary (chair), deputy secretaries and heads of all departmental divisions and portfolio agencies. A summary of outcomes from meetings is made available to all employees via the department’s intranet and through regular meetings with staff held within each division and agency.

Committees of the Executive Roundtable

The Executive Roundtable supervises eight committees that direct specific aspects of the department’s internal affairs (see table below). Each committee reports its decisions and recommendations to the Executive Roundtable after major meetings.

The department established the Portfolio Indigenous Affairs Coordination Group in August 2004 following the transfer of some Indigenous programme functions from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.

During the year the department standardised meeting procedures for the senior management committees. The department also upgraded the information about each committee made available to staff through the department’s intranet.

Committee name Role
Audit Committee Oversees the internal audit programme, risk management, fraud prevention, financial and management reporting, and compliance with legislation
Budget, Finance and Strategy Committee Considers strategic budget and significant financial matters, and guides corporate governance and strategic policy activities
Compliance Executive Committee Sets departmental policy and direction for legislative compliance, endorses operational policies and practices, sets performance measures and reviews performance
International Steering Committee Oversees and provides strategic direction to the international work of the department, and sets priorities for its international activities
Knowledge Management Committee Supports improved information and knowledge management in the portfolio, including implementation of new information and communications technology
Marine and Coastal Coordination Committee Coordinates domestic and international marine and coastal policies and programmes across the portfolio
Portfolio Indigenous Affairs Coordination Group Coordinates Indigenous issues across the portfolio
Workforce Management Committee Provides strategic oversight for workforce issues such as recruitment, performance management, learning and development, occupational health and safety

Planning and review

Corporate direction

Every three to five years the secretary approves a medium-term corporate plan, which sets out:

The department’s corporate plan was reviewed in early 2005. A new corporate plan will be released by November 2005 covering the period 2005-2008.

Delivery of government outputs

Each year after the Budget the secretary approves the department’s annual strategic plan. The strategic plan expands on the corporate plan and the outcomes and outputs in the Budget by listing priorities for the year. The department makes the strategic plan available to all staff by publishing the plan on the department’s intranet.

The head of each division then approves an annual divisional work plan. Divisional work plans are based on the priorities listed in the strategic plan. They are adapted during the year to accommodate new initiatives and risks.

In turn, the divisional work plans provide direction for branch, section and individual work plans. This means employees have a clear line of sight from their own work to the overall work of the department.

The head of each division provides a four-monthly divisional performance report to the Executive Roundtable. The report shows performance against the division’s work plan and highlights any emerging risks.

Workforce management

The Investors in People standard provides a framework for improving the department’s performance through a planned approach to setting and communicating business objectives and developing people to meet these objectives.

The department’s performance and development scheme aligns each employee’s work and personal development goals to the department’s annual strategic plans.

The Workforce Management Committee approves the department’s annual strategic people management plan. The plan sets annual goals and priorities for human resource management, taking its direction from the department’s corporate plan. The department makes the strategic people management plan available to employees by publishing the plan on the department’s intranet.

A monthly ‘human resource scorecard’ report is provided to the Executive Roundtable, focusing on workforce turnover, recruitment activities and staffing levels.

Risk management

Risk assessments are integral to the planning and review systems. The Audit Committee is responsible for the department’s overall risk management policy but has a sub-committee, the Risk Assessment Panel, which oversees implementation of the department’s risk management plans.

Internal audit, risk management and fraud prevention services are delivered under contract by an external provider.

During the year the department started a formal process to monitor new or emerging business risks by reviewing the four-monthly divisional reports to the Executive Roundtable.

The department began publishing a quarterly risk management staff information newsletter, RiskRAP. A staff survey of risk awareness was completed in order to identify training and information needs.

A Risk Managers Network was set up to monitor developments and report on performance. The network comprises executive-level staff responsible for the various risk areas within the department including insurable risk, business, fraud, IT and physical security, and business continuity.

Success in managing business risks led to the department receiving a 5 per cent discount off its Comcover premium with the completion of the 2005 Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Survey in April 2005.

Fraud control

The department has a fraud control plan and conducts risk assessments to prevent and manage fraud within the department, in accordance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines.

In October 2004 the Audit Committee endorsed the department’s fraud control plan for 2003-2005, which was subsequently approved by the secretary and made available to all employees. The Australian Greenhouse Office and the National Oceans Office maintained separate fraud control procedures. The department’s fraud control plan is being updated to include the Australian Greenhouse Office and National Oceans Office.

Ethical standards

Departmental codes of conduct

The department’s employees must comply with the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct. Detailed guidance is available to employees via the department’s intranet. The guidance includes a code of conduct specific to the department.

Individual performance agreements require a personal commitment to the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct.

The department’s service charter requires employees to act with integrity, responsiveness and responsibility, and to strive to give their best to every task, when dealing with clients (see page 200).

The Australian Antarctic Division applies a Code of Organisational Behaviours to its Australian-based employees and an Antarctic Service Code of Personal Behaviour to personnel (whether employees or not) in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic.

Departmental values

In addition to the Australian Public Service Values, the department’s values are:

Maintaining ethical standards

A network of workplace contact officers is maintained to raise awareness about acceptable behaviour in the workplace and to assist employees with complaints.

When new employees join the department they attend an orientation programme that introduces them to the specific requirements of the Australian Public Service code of conduct, including the need to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. The programme illustrates commonly encountered ethical issues. Participants in the graduate programme also attend an ethics course.

Guidelines available on the department’s intranet warn staff against the inappropriate use of information technology. The department’s whistleblower policy ensures that allegations are treated seriously and investigated independently in a timely manner.

As part of its strong commitment to an Antarctic culture that respects tolerance, diversity, the environment and agreed social standards, the Australian Antarctic Division applies its behavioural codes in its human resource management strategies, including recruitment and performance management.