To the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Water Resources, and stakeholders:
The Department of the Environment and Water Resources (the Department) commissioned URS Australia Pty Ltd (URS) to provide independent assurance of the non-financial content of this Triple Bottom Line Report 2005-06 (the 'report'). The report presents the Department's social and environmental performance over the period 1st July 2005 to 30th June 2006. The Department was responsible for the preparation of the report and inclusion of the report on its web site, and this statement represents the auditor's independent opinion. URS' responsibility in performing our assurance activities is to the Secretary and Executive of the Department alone and in accordance with the terms of reference agreed with them. Any reliance a third party may place on the Report is entirely at their own risk.
The objective of the assurance process is to provide stakeholders of the Department with an independent opinion on the materiality, completeness and accuracy of the information presented in the report, and whether the Department has responded to stakeholder concerns and adequately communicated those responses within the report. This is confirmed through an audit of the claims made, underlying systems, processes and competencies that support the report, as well as the embeddedness of policies and strategies on sustainability.
Our approach to assurance provision is based on the AA1000 Assurance Standard. The assurance engagement was undertaken in October and November 2006. The process involved:
- interviewing management and key selected internal and external stakeholders to ascertain their views on, and responses to, the material social and environmental issues faced by the Department, and the communication of these issues;
- a review of the Department's key social and environmental strategies, policies, objectives, targets, management systems, measurement/data collection and reporting procedures and background documentation;
- a review of the report for any significant anomalies;
- an overall assessment of the embeddedness of the Department's key economic, environmental and social policies;
- a series of interviews with key personnel responsible for collating and writing various parts of the report in order to ensure selected claims were discussed and substantiated;
- the examination of the aggregation and/or derivation of, and underlying evidence for, 50 selected data points that would form part of the report; and
- a review of selected external media sources relating to the Department's social and environmental performance. Our scope of work did not involve verification of the accuracy and robustness of financial data, other than that relating to broader environmental and social accounts. The Australian Antarctic Division in Tasmania was visited as part of the assurance process, but the Parks Division's data was only verified by desk-top analysis of selected data sources and through electronic communication with the Division's staff. It is recommended that the Division and its Supervising Scientist located in Darwin be visited next year.
Independence was ensured by selecting an assurance team that had no other involvement with the Department during the reporting period that could impair the team's independence or objectivity. URS was not responsible for preparation of any part of this report or web site content. URS has not undertaken any commissions for the Department in the reporting period concerning reporting or data collection. The audit team comprised of individuals with expertise in the government sector and in environmental and social performance measurement. The audit team has collectively undertaken over fifty assurance engagements in Australia over the past ten years and is also led by a Lead Certified Sustainability Assurance Practitioner (Lead CSAP) accredited by the Independent Register of Certified Auditors (IRCA UK).
Based on the scope of the assurance process, the following represents URS' opinion:
- The findings of the assurance engagement provide confidence in the existing reporting processes, but recommendations have been made to improve systems established so as to ensure better quality control on data. The level of data accuracy was found to be within acceptable limits. Data trails selected were easily identifiable and traceable in the majority of instances, and the personnel responsible were able to reliably demonstrate the origin(s) and interpretation of data. Data inaccuracy issues were found with anomalies attributable to human transcription, interpretation and aggregation errors, acknowledging that the verification was conducted on data content before the final draft of the report was authored. The changes suggested were satisfactorily addressed prior to finalisation of the report.
- The statements made in the report appropriately reflect the Department's environmental, social and economic performance achieved during the period. Overall, the auditor is satisfied that the report is a fair and balanced representation of the Department's material environmental and social performance during the reporting period. The report does not include information or data on policy impacts, which are not subject to measurement and reporting.
- Materiality: Issues material to stakeholders as identified through our review have been considered and communicated within the report. Material environmental and social aspects of the Department's sustainability performance as deemed through a peer review process are also appropriately addressed. Effective use of resources, safety and health, showing leadership and human resources management are the key sustainability issues as determined by stakeholders during the limited stakeholder engagement process.
- Completeness: The report was found to be complete in addressing key environmental and social performance as well as all operations of the Department, using results obtained from the stakeholder engagement and peer review and the Global Reporting Initiative's Sustainability Reporting Guidelines 2002 as a guide.
- Responsiveness: The Department has undertaken some stakeholder engagement with internal and external stakeholders. Further internal and external engagement is also envisaged. The summary report is an appropriate tool for stakeholder engagement.
- Recommendations: URS has provided suggestions for reporting improvement in some areas, including procedures for data management. It is also recommended that the assurance process next year be undertaken after the report is authored so that any material claims are audited as part of the assurance process. The assurance process this year was limited to auditing data content only. These have been outlined in a more detailed report presented to the Department management.
On behalf of the audit team
20th March 2007
Principal, URS & Lead CSAP (IRCA UK)
Director, Net Balance Management Group
- Sustainability Report 05-06
- Executive summary
- Vision and strategy
- Our organisation
- Policy and influence
- Environmental performance
- Social performance
- Economic performance
- Report assurance statement
- Case studies
- GRI index
Links to another web site
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