Publications archive

Department of the Environment and Water Resources annual report 2006–07

Volume one
Department of the Environment and Water Resources, 2007
ISSN 1441-9335

Managing the department (continued)

Stakeholder relations

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.

Ethical standards

The department's employees maintain the ethical standards required of the Australian Public Service. 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 and procedures for handling suspected breaches. Individual performance agreements also require a personal commitment to the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct.

The department maintains a network of workplace contact officers 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 Values and 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 also ensures that allegations are treated seriously and investigated promptly and independently.

Ministerial and parliamentary services

The department advises and supports the minister and the assistant minister through briefings, correspondence, website maintenance and office support services.

New electronic workflow system

This year the department introduced a new electronic ministerial workflow system called Slipstream to improve the management of ministerial correspondence. The system allows managers to assign work electronically and to track the progress of individual items. Work is moved from person to person using electronic workflow, saving considerably on the use of paper. Staff can receive email notification of new work, generate drafts from built-in templates that draw on pre-entered details (e.g. name and address details), and can access and add to a library of standard paragraphs, which significantly improves efficiency. The system will automate and streamline management reporting to a much greater degree than previously possible, improve document control, and improve the quality of the material being produced.

A staged rollout of the system commenced on 2 April 2007 and was completed for most Canberra-based elements of the portfolio by 30 June 2007. Rollout to the entire portfolio will be completed by December 2007.

Workflow statistics

The department provides a fortnightly report to the executive and to the minister's staff on workflows relating to briefings, correspondence, parliamentary questions, Cabinet and parliamentary business and legal, legislation and freedom of information matters. These reports assist the department's executive team to develop performance improvement strategies.

In 2006—07, 15,831 items of correspondence were received by the minister and assistant minister and registered on the department's database. The department prepared over 3,000 briefing submissions for the minister and assistant minister. The department aims to ensure a minimum of five working days between when a submission arrives in the minister's office and when a decision is required.

The following table shows the growth in ministerial correspondence over the past five years. The quantity has almost doubled over the past two years.

Ministerial correspondence 2002—03 to 2006—07
Year Correspondence received
2002—03 8,553
2003—04 8,559
2004—05 8,507
2005—06 10,844
2006—07 15,831

The department's Parliamentary Services Section monitors the timeliness and accuracy of ministerial briefs and draft replies to correspondence, and uses rejection rates as a measure of accuracy and as an indicator of the minister's satisfaction. The new electronic workflow system will improve monitoring and reporting of performance in this area.

Services to the community

The department's Community Information Unit receives requests for information from the community and feedback on the department's services. The unit also manages the department's publications shopfront.

In 2006—07 the Community Information Unit responded to 48,618 enquiries from the Australian community; 46.7 per cent related to grants and 53.3 per cent were seeking general information about the department and its programmes. The unit distributed 264,083 publications in response to requests.

Community Information Unit 2004—05 to 2006—07
  Type of service   2004—05   2005—06   2006—07
Enquiries 31,959 38,927 48,618
Publications distributed 222,954 253,759 264,083
Shopfront visitors Not available 11,747 9,959

Service charter

The department has a service charter for 2005—2008. The charter sets out the standards of service clients can expect from the department, clients' rights and responsibilities, and how to find out more about the department. 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.

Clients can provide feedback to the department on its performance by emailing the Client Service Officer who is an impartial contact point to accept feedback and coordinate the department's response to members of the public who raise concerns about service standards.

The Client Service Officer can be contacted at:

Client Service Officer
Department of the Environment and Water Resources
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: 02 6274 1323
Fax: 02 6274 1322
Email: clientservice@environment.gov.au

The department received 254 enquiries through its Client Service Officer in 2006—07. 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 did not receive any complaints about service through its Client Service Officer in 2006—07. While several complaints were received about wildlife trade and seizures, these complaints were not related to service and were directed to the appropriate area for resolution. The department also received four complaints through its Community Information Unit and these were directed to the appropriate area for resolution.

Access and equity

The department contributes to the Australian Government's access and equity annual report on whole-of-government progress in implementing the Australian Government's Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society.

The main groups of people with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds with whom the department deals are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, often in remote parts of Australia.

The department has a long history of working in partnership with Indigenous Australians in caring for the land and sea. Portfolio responsibilities include management of the Indigenous Heritage Programme, Working on Country, Indigenous Protected Areas Programme, the government's main natural resource management programmes, and national parks. This work presents opportunities for government and Indigenous communities to work together to deliver conservation and heritage outcomes, from weed and fire management to the conservation of protected animals.

The department promotes recruitment and development of Indigenous employees especially for positions that deal with Indigenous clients. In 2006—07 the department created a new Indigenous Development Coordinator position to support and promote the recruitment, career development, and retention of Indigenous staff in the department. The department also promotes awareness of Indigenous issues through the annual celebration of NAIDOC week. For more information see the section on human resources in this chapter.