Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012
Corporate outcome: Corporate governance
The department's governance framework assists the department in delivering policy, program and regulatory objectives efficiently, effectively and ethically.
Corporate and operational planning
The department's Strategic Plan 2011-15 outlines the department's mission, outcome structure, strategic priorities and key focus areas. The plan provides a framework for the department's business activities, which support the Australian Government's objectives to protect the environment and promote a sustainable way of life—to advance a sustainable Australia: our environment, water, heritage and communities.
The Annual Operational Plan provides a yearly roadmap for the delivery of our strategic priorities and goals for the current year. The plan provides an operational description of how the department will achieve the priorities identified in the strategic plan, and in line with the Portfolio Budget Statements. It also serves as an overarching guide to divisions, enabling the development of division, branch and section planning documents. Division, branch and section planning is reflected in performance agreements of individual staff.
In 2011-12 the department strengthened and consolidated corporate and organisational planning. These changes have also responded, in part, to the recommendations of the Capability Review conducted by the Australian Public Service Commission. The Annual Operational Plan and the strategic plan have been more closely aligned, and the department is pursuing opportunities to strengthen its capabilities in the areas of strategy, leadership, delivery, communications and connections. The recommendations of the Capability Review also provide a strong platform for the next stage of the department's development, particularly in relation to further improving our capacity to plan strategically for the future and to prioritise effectively across many competing demands.
Oversight of corporate and operational planning is aided by monthly reporting to the Executive Board. This reporting outlines the significant developments and risks associated with all major external and internal projects.
Together, these elements set out the department's corporate and operational planning, as well as guiding continued improvements in organisational effectiveness.
|Name of committee||Role|
|Biodiversity and Heritage Board||To discuss, consider, and coordinate significant biodiversity and heritage policy, program and regulatory issues.|
|Departmental Audit Committee||To provide independent assurance to the Secretary on the integrity and reliability of the department's management of financial processes, risk and fraud control.|
|Departmental Consultative Committee||To promote good workplace relations in the department by providing a forum for consultation and exchange of information between management, staff and their representatives.|
|Departmental Environmental Performance Committee||To strengthen whole-of-department environmental performance and management and contribute to reducing any negative environmental impact of the department's operations.|
|Departmental Health and Safety Committee||
To develop and maintain a partnership between management and workers to strategically manage the health, safety and welfare of all employees, contractors, visitors and third parties to the department.
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) came into effect on 1 January 2012. In accordance with Part 4 of the Work Health and Safety (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Act 2011, the Departmental Occupational Health and Safety Committee continues to operate in its current form but was renamed the Departmental Health and Safety Committee. The terms of reference were reviewed to reflect the WHS Act.
|Departmental Occupational Health and Safety Committee||The Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 applied until 31 December 2011. Until this time, the Departmental Occupational Health and Safety Committee considered strategic occupational health and safety (OHS) issues and reviewed and approved OHS policies and policy improvements.|
|Executive Board||To provide assistance and advice to the Secretary in meeting responsibilities under the Public Service Act 1999 to manage the department and meet accountability obligations to the Parliament. As the central governance mechanism for the department, the Executive Board fulfils a coordination role in cross-cutting issues and decisions.|
|Graduate Steering Committee||To oversee the quality, appropriateness and operation of the department's Graduate Program and provide guidance in relation to policy and direction.|
|Information Management Committee||To identify investment priorities in information acquisition and creation, to develop and maintain information infrastructure and systems, and to advise on the development of policies and standards for information and its management.|
|Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Steering Committee||To develop and monitor the department's RAP and develop the annual progress report against the RAP for Reconciliation Australia.|
|Regulatory Compliance Executive Committee||To promote and guide consistent and effective regulatory compliance and enforcement work by the portfolio.|
|Water Group Outcome 4 Project Board||To provide overall guidance and assessment of projects in the Water Group, ensuring alignment with project outcomes.|
|Workforce Management Committee||To oversee the department's achievement of best practice workforce management and to provide the Executive Board with recommendations on workforce policy issues and risks.|
Internal audits improve effectiveness by strengthening the organisational control environment through audits and providing assurance to the secretary (through the Departmental Audit Committee) on the robustness of the department's governance arrangements.
The department has a dedicated Internal Audit Section. During 2011-12 the internal audit program was delivered in line with the approved Internal Audit Work Plan. Delivery of the internal audit program was supported by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the appointed internal audit service provider to the department.
To further strengthen the quality and performance of the department, internal audit section is continuing to develop its method of identifying and promulgating lessons learnt from audit activities to ensure continuous improvement across the department. This is achieved through a widespread use of a range of audit activity including, Good Start Reviews, Health Check Reviews, Compliance and Program Reviews and ensuring that reports of all audit activity are brought to the attention of senior management. In addition, audit findings are used in a broader context within the department through identifying improvements to governance arrangements and risk and project management.
Departmental Audit Committee
The Departmental Audit Committee provides independent assurance to the secretary on the integrity of the department's management of financial processes, risk and fraud control. The committee supports an effective and efficient internal audit function in the department. It evaluates the robustness of the department's internal controls and legislative compliance frameworks to ensure that it can continue to meet its accountability responsibilities.
Ms Elizabeth Montano continued in her appointment as the Chair of the committee. Two new appointments were made to the committee in February 2012, Mr Michael Roche as independent member and Mr David Parker as departmental member (replacing Mr Mark Tucker). In April 2012 the committee membership increased from five to six members with the additional appointment of Mr Sean Sullivan as departmental member.
Seven ordinary meetings were held during 2011-12. Observers at the committee meetings include the First Assistant Secretary of Policy and Communications Division, the Chief Operating Officer, Assistant Secretary Governance and Legal Branch, Chief Financial Officer, representatives of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and the internal audit service provider.
|Member||Role||No. of meetings member is eligible to attend||No. of meetings attended|
|Elizabeth Montano||Independent Chair||7||7|
|Evelyn Bosak||Independent member||7||6|
|Geoff Knuckey||Independent member||7||6|
|Michael Roche||Independent member||3||2|
|David Parker||Member (Deputy Chair)||3||3|
|Mark Tucker Previous member||Member (Deputy Chair)||4||4|
In 2011-12 the department continued to build on the outcomes of the Enterprise Risk Management Improvement project by further refining and enhancing the risk management toolkit and providing specialist risk management support to all divisions. New initiatives and enhancements included:
- provision of a mentoring function to assist in identifying and assessing risk through facilitated workshops
- inclusion of specialist risk management staff on project teams for major projects and in the development of programs
- provision of a timely response to dealing with any deficiencies in risk management processes identified through the internal audit program.
Oversight arrangements continue to evolve, with increased visibility over identified risk being provided to division and branch heads for ongoing mitigation and monitoring. Further development of the risk managers' network will continue the progression towards embedding risk management practices at all levels across the department.
In 2011-12 the department updated its fraud control plan with an increased emphasis on conducting fraud risk assessments for projects, programs and business-as-usual activities. In recognising the importance of ensuring the incidence of fraud is minimised and fraud prevention capability is strengthened, the department has implemented several initiatives. As a result, a new fraud awareness program is currently under development, new tools are being introduced with clearly articulated fraud indicators and improved fraud risk assessment guidelines are being implemented.
The department provides guidance for staff in the identification of suspected fraud and, where identified, takes action or refers matters to appropriate enforcement agencies. During 2011-12 there were two cases of suspected fraud identified.
In accordance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, this agency has prepared fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans, it has in place appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation, reporting and data collection procedures to meet its needs and has taken all reasonable measures to minimise the incidence of fraud and to investigate and recover the proceeds of fraud.
In 2012 the department focused its efforts on broadening the application of project management methodology and appropriate implementation strategies across the portfolio and modernising the project management framework.
The department brought together project management expertise from within the organisation to form the Portfolio Project Management Office. The office provides specialist support services across the portfolio, by:
- providing sound strategic project management guidance and support to ensure that departmental programs and projects are managed professionally and achieve their intended outcomes on time, on budget and to standard through individual program and project performance improvement
- developing and maintaining project governance frameworks for program and project management, including setting roles and responsibilities and providing guidance for Project Outcome Boards
- enhancing and maintaining an intranet site, systems, databases and basic alignment with project management software
- coordinating, developing and delivering training across the organisation to meet capability requirements for each of the key roles in project and program management and delivery
- providing and coordinating program and project management and technical expertise to support delivery by developing and maintaining a team of high-quality external providers
- conducting regular program and project health checks and providing reporting guidance.
Business Continuity Plan
The department's Business Continuity Plan describes the arrangements to be used to ensure continuity of key services after a major, unexpected and disruptive incident. It details the management structure, staff roles, responsibilities and actions that would be implemented in the event of a major incident.
The department developed a revised Business Continuity Plan, which captures information and provides an effective response for all critical functions. Appropriate maintenance, training and testing regimes have been implemented and are ongoing.
Certificate of Compliance
The department's financial control framework includes the Certificate of Compliance. The department undertakes a self-assessment process three times a year. Results are provided to management and the Departmental Audit Committee. The department took several steps to improve its performance, including:
- an update of the financial delegations
- further development of the finance portal to assist staff to more easily locate guidance material
- further enhancements to the finance practice manual
- rollout of new online finance training to support self-paced learning
- overhaul of the Chief Executive Instructions to align with the model set of Instructions issued by the Department of Finance and Deregulation
- continuous risk-based substantive testing of financial transactions.