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Department of the Environment and Heritage annual report 2005–06

Volume one
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006
ISSN 1441 9335

Managing the department

Corporate governance

The department is committed to sound governance and has established a comprehensive range of mechanisms and documentation to control and safeguard the organisation’s business systems and assets.

Results 2005–06

Senior executive and responsibilities

The secretary, Mr David Borthwick, is the chief executive officer of the department. He is assisted in the management of the organisation by an executive team consisting of three deputy secretaries and 14 first assistant secretaries.

During 2005–06 the department made the following new appointments to the executive team:

Three senior executives retired from the department in 2005–06: Dr Arthur Johnson, Mr Mark Hyman and Ms Alison Russell-French.

Dr Arthur Johnston

Dr Arthur Johnston

Dr Arthur Johnston retired from the department in October 2005 after six years as the Supervising Scientist and over 20 years of distinguished service in the department. The position of Supervising Scientist plays a vital role in ensuring that the environment of the Northern Territory’s Alligator Rivers Region, which includes Kakadu National Park, remains protected from any potential impacts of uranium mining.

Dr Johnston joined the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist in 1982. He was director of the Institute for nine years and was head of the research programme on environmental radioactivity at the Institute.

Dr Johnston was awarded the Public Service Medal on Australia Day in 2003 for outstanding public service in the development of environmental standards, particularly relating to the Kakadu National Park, ensuring the highest levels of scientific integrity of the environmental research programme.

Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman retired from the department in October 2005 after 13 years of distinguished service. Mr Hyman was assistant secretary of the Environment Protection Branch since 2003. His responsibilities included policy relating to environmental management of chemicals and hazardous wastes, environmental aspects of biotechnology, the National Pollutant Inventory, ozone protection, state of the environment reporting and the development of partnerships with industry, especially relating to sustainability in business.

Prior to this Mr Hyman was in charge of the Department’s International Branch, when that was a separate organisational unit, with general responsibility for international environmental and sustainable development matters, including coordinating Australia’s preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Mr Hyman’s extensive experience included science, technology and industry policy, with a wide variety of environmental responsibilities, especially relating to environment protection.

Alison Russell-French

Alison Russell-French

Alison Russell-French retired from the department in July 2006 after 16 years of distinguished service having joined the department in 1990. Prior to this, Ms Russell- French worked in a broad range of natural resource management areas of the Australian Public Service.

Alison Russell-French was a member of the senior executive team delivering the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

Ms Russell-French’s experience covers a wide range of policy development and programme administration in natural resource management particularly in the areas of wetlands, coastal and marine, introduced marine pests, migratory waterbird conservation, and world heritage. She also represented the Australian Government in international environment forums.

Executive committees

The Executive Roundtable is the key senior management forum. It meets weekly to monitor performance and review significant issues across the department and portfolio. Members are the secretary (chair), deputy secretaries and heads of all divisions of the department 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 in each division and agency. The names and responsibilities of the department’s senior managers are shown in the organisation chart.

The department has eight committees that direct specific aspects of the department’s internal affairs. Each committee reports its decisions and recommendations to the Executive Roundtable after major meetings. The major achievements of the committees in 2005–06 are summarised in the table below.

In late 2005 the Executive Roundtable agreed to establish a senior forum across the portfolio to consider climate change impacts and adaptation. The role of the Executive Group on Climate Change Adaptation is to ensure effective integration of work on climate change impacts and adaptation into environment and heritage policies, strategies and programmes. The first meeting was held in February 2006.

Roles and achievements of the department’s Executive Roundtable committees 2005–06
Committee Role Major achievements in 2005–2006
Audit Committee Oversees the internal and external audit programme and reviews, risk management, fraud prevention, financial processes, legislation and compliance Reviewed the committee’s charter, operating procedures and performance

Updated the 2005–2007 fraud control plan for the department

Completed the 2005–06 internal audit programme of the department
Budget, Finance and Strategy Committee Considers strategic budget and significant financial matters, and guides corporate governance and strategic policy activities Undertook a rigorous review of the resources allocated to the seven outputs, reprioritising 2006–07 funding to ensure priority functions are properly resourced and to allow the department to respond to emerging issues

Set the initial budget strategy for 2007–08 and 2008–09

Adopted an internal budget management strategy which sets out clear lines of responsibility between strategic policy and financial management aspects of the budget process

Implemented change management initiatives to enhance the financial management of the department

Developed and implemented activity tracking for major and/or sensitive projects to identify and monitor risks

Developed detailed guides for line areas and agencies on the budget and new policy processes
Compliance Executive Committee Sets the department’s policy and direction for legislative compliance, endorses operational policies and practices, sets performance measures and reviews performance on compliance and governance Endorsed the 2006 compliance and enforcement strategy setting the direction for department-wide compliance and enforcement activities

Initiated a review of the department’s investigation services in line with audit recommendations

Endorsed an operational draft of the departmental investigation procedures manual
International Steering Committee Oversees and provides strategic direction to the international work of the department, and sets priorities for its international activities Endorsed a Pacific strategy for the portfolio

Endorsed a strategy for participation in the conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Established a 2005–06 international engagement strategy
Knowledge Management Committee Supports improved information and knowledge management in the portfolio, including implementation of new information and communications technology Created training programmes to improve the department’s recordkeeping and developed a new intranet site to improve communication

Established subcommittees to improve access to and application of environmental information and to progress the cultural and work practice aspects of knowledge management

Endorsed a new information and communications technology strategic plan
Marine and Coastal Coordination Committee Coordinates domestic and international marine and coastal policies and programmes across the portfolio Initiated the Natural Resource Management Marine and Coastal Committee Strategic Directions Workshop to be held in July 2006

Coordinated departmental input to the Marine Pollution Response Plan
Portfolio Indigenous Affairs Coordination Group Coordinates Indigenous issues across the portfolio and sets the portfolio’s strategic focus on Indigenous matters Provided leadership and advice on a future direction for shared responsibility agreements, and for communicating changes in regional marine planning to Indigenous people

Championed the ‘Healthy Country, Healthy People’ schedule under the Overarching Agreement on Indigenous Affairs between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Northern Territory of Australia. Leadership from this committee has improved coordination of Indigenous issues across the portfolio and forged stronger external links, particularly with the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination and Indigenous Coordination Centres

Championed a successful NAIDOC week in the department
Workforce Management Committee Provides strategic oversight for workforce issues such as recruitment, performance management, learning and development, occupational health and safety Approved changes to the graduate development programme and significantly increased the graduate intake for 2007 and 2008

Created three subcommittees to develop respectively a workforce plan for the department, a project management tool accessible on the intranet, and a leadership development programme for senior employees of the department

Corporate governance developments

Uhrig review

The department is assessing the governance arrangements of statutory authorities and office holders in the portfolio against the recommendations of the 2003 Review of the Corporate Governance of Statutory Authorities and Office Holders (the Uhrig Report).

Having completed assessments of the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator and the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust in 2004–05, this year the department completed assessments of the Bureau of Meteorology, the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation, and the Director of National Parks. The governance arrangements for all of these entities were found to be generally consistent with the Uhrig Report.

In relation to the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation, a review of the National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 (and the corresponding legislation in other jurisdictions) commenced in late June 2006. Building on the department’s assessment in the context of the Uhrig Report, this review will consider the governance framework for the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation.

A review panel completed the assessment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority against the Uhrig Report as part of a broader review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. It is now some 30 years since the Act came into force and established the authority. In the 2004 federal election, the government made a commitment to review the Act to improve the performance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, its office holders and its accountability frameworks. The minister announced the review and its terms of reference on 23 August 2005. The review was undertaken by a panel chaired by the secretary of the department with a representative of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and a representative of the Department of Finance and Administration as the other panel members. In all, 227 submissions were received, as well as a number of campaign submissions, and 36 consultation meetings were held. The review was completed in April 2006 and is currently subject to consideration by the government.

Internal audit

This year the department reviewed its requirements and organisational arrangements for internal audit. A new section was created to facilitate improved governance in the department. It provides strategic input to the internal audit and risk management functions and manages the work programme for the department’s external provider of internal audit, risk management and fraud prevention services. The section also provides the secretariat to the Audit Committee and the Risk Assessment Panel, provides advice to the executive on programme implementation and performance, and prepares the department’s annual report.

The department’s Audit Committee provides independent assurance and assistance to the secretary on the integrity of the department’s financial management processes, its risk, fraud control and legislative compliance framework, and its external accountability responsibilities.

The Audit Committee has five members, as set out in the table below. The current membership of the committee was formally appointed from 1 September 2005 with a new chair and one new member appointed at that time.

Audit Committee membership 2005–06
Member Role
Howard Bamsey Chair
Rod Allen Member
David Anderson Member
Greg Wood Independent member
Jenny Morison Independent member

All members attended the five meetings held in 2005–06.

Observers at meetings of the committee are the chief finance officer, chair of the Risk Assessment Panel, the director of the Governance Unit and representatives of the Australian National Audit Office and internal audit.

This year, the Audit Committee’s major activities included:

The 2006–09 internal audit programme was developed in consultation with the department’s senior executive. The planning process incorporated:

The internal audit team developed a list of audit topics based on an understanding of the key risks of the department and areas where internal audit activity can best assist staff to continuously develop and upgrade processes to improve the department’s overall efficiency and effectiveness in achieving its outcomes. The 2006–07 internal audit plan was approved by the Audit Committee. The Audit Committee will monitor and follow-up audit findings and recommendations.

Risk management

Risk management is integral to the department’s planning and review systems. A senior management subcommittee, the Risk Assessment Panel, implements the department’s risk management policy, maintains an overall risk management plan for the department, and reports to the Audit Committee. The risk management service provider and the director of the Governance Unit are observers at Risk Assessment Panel meetings.

Risk Assessment Panel membership 2005–06
Member Role
Meetings attended (of 4 meetings held)
Mark Tucker Chair
Gerard Early Member
David Anderson Member
Malcolm Forbes Member
Rod Allen Member

This year the Risk Assessment Panel began investigating ways to identify risks at an early stage in programme implementation. As part of this process, in February 2006, the Budget, Finance and Strategy Committee began trialling a new reporting tool to allow the department’s executive to monitor the progress of key departmental activities and identify emerging risks. In April 2006 the department commissioned a review of the risk management framework. The results are expected in early 2006–07.

The department’s insurable risks are identified annually as part of Comcover’s insurance renewal process. Both actual and potential insurance claims are reported to Comcover. For risks associated with injury to staff the department is covered by Comcare. The department maintains an occupational health and safety unit, which helps to reduce claims. Comcare conducts inspections to help the department measure its performance. Success in managing business risks led to the department receiving a six per cent discount off its Comcover premium with the completion of the 2006 Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Survey in April 2006.

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.

The secretary endorsed the department’s current fraud control plan in October 2005. The plan covers the period 2005–2007.

Business continuity plan

The department has a business continuity plan for the period 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2007 endorsed by the secretary. The business continuity plan describes the arrangements that the department will use to ensure the continuity of its key services after a major, unexpected and disruptive incident (such as a fire). It describes the management structure, staff roles and responsibilities, and actions that are to be implemented after a major incident.

Knowledge management

The department is committed to basing its decision-making on the best available information and acknowledges the need to develop and effectively manage its knowledge base. This year the department established subcommittees of the Knowledge Management Committee to look at the department’s environmental information needs, particularly in the area of natural resource management, and at cultural and work practices that are needed for effective knowledge sharing.

This year a new intranet was launched to assist with internal communications and knowledge sharing. The department has been focusing on learning from staff who have already built up experience and understanding in specific areas, and has used their experience in practical ways including participating in the design of the new intranet.

Environmental economics advice

The Environmental Economics Unit supports the department with economic analysis that brings together environmental and economic considerations when developing advice about policies and programmes. The unit identifies issues where economic policies need to take into account environmental considerations.

During the year the unit assisted with submissions to Productivity Commission inquiries into heritage and waste management. The unit continued to participate in the management of the $10 million National Market Based Instruments Pilot Programme under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. Nine of the 11 pilot projects approved under round one of the programme are now complete. A focus during the year was to address the issue of providing environmental outcomes at least cost (see html). Additional pilot projects will be funded under round two of the programme over coming years.

Other activities included assessing impact estimates associated with marine protected areas, the use of market based instruments in programme development for the Tasmanian Forests Conservation Fund, management and advice for projects associated with the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, and advice on environmental economics proposals under the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities programme.

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