New South Wales

Auditor-General releases report on Planning and Environment agencies

THE NSW Department of Planning and Environment increased new housing approvals across the state by 12 per cent to 58,252 in 2014-15 – exceeding the State priority target of 50,000 – according to a new report released last week by the NSW Auditor-General.

The report also found that the Department reduced the time taken to assess major projects from about three years in 2013-14 to four months in 2014-15.

Sydney CBD
Above: Sydney CBD / by Andrea Schaffer.

In other areas, the NSW Environment Protection Authority reduced the average time to assess contaminated sites from 203 days in 2013-14 to 73 days in 2014-15. It is also improving transparency by making more information on its performance publicly available.

"It is pleasing to see that the NSW Environment Protection Authority has responded to my previous recommendations to improve the management of contaminated sites across the State," Acting Auditor-General, Tony Whitfield, said in a statement last week.

Other findings of the report included:

Further improvement in financial management is required at some agencies

Some agencies in the Planning and Environment cluster undertake limited analysis of financial performance and sustainability. In addition, most cluster agencies recorded material variances between actual and budgeted results in 2014-15.

"Agencies in the Planning and Environment cluster should adopt a more robust and consistent approach to assessing financial performance and sustainability and further review budgeting processes to improve financial management," Mr Whitfield recommended.

Asset management at larger agencies could be improved

The 2014-15 audits identified that agencies in the cluster with significant land, buildings and infrastructure assets could improve service delivery outcomes if they had more effective asset management frameworks and asset management plans.

"Asset Management Plans require improved whole-of-life costings data, non-financial performance indicators and systems to collect and analyse asset management information," said Mr Whitfield.

Shared service agreements not in place

Most agencies in the Planning and Environment cluster have transitioned to an internal shared service model for finance, human resources and information technology services. The Department of Planning and Environment is responsible for the governance and administration of these shared services, however, Service Partnership Agreements are not yet in place.

The Acting Auditor-General said, "The Department of Planning and Environment should finalise Service Partnership Agreements to ensure clarity over service levels, cost allocations, key performance indicators and service expectations."

More information is available from the Audit Office of New South Wales website at <http://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/>.

Photo: View of Sydney CBD from Balls Head Reserve / Andrea Schaffer / Licensed under Creative Commons BY 2.0.

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