Audit and assurance

The Natural Resources Commission Act 2003 requires the Commission to undertake audits of plans and other natural resource management issues, as required by the Minister.

The Commission's audits deliver accountability of service delivery, drive improved performance, and engender community and investor confidence in the audited organisation's activities.

The Minister for Primary Industries has asked the Commission to be the auditor of Local Land Services.

Audits of Local Land Services in 2017-2018

In August 2017, the Commission provided to the Minister for Primary Industries its 2017-18 proposed risk-based audit plan for Local Land Services.

In response, the Minister requested that the Commission scope the proposed audits of:

  • emergency response capability
  • implementation of major reforms (using the biodiversity reform as a test case).

Audit of emergency response capability

The Commission has completed an audit of emergency response capability of the Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services for biosecurity emergencies and natural disasters that impact on agriculture and animal welfare.

The audit reviewed the efficiency and effectiveness of the alliance of Local Land Services and the Department of Primary Industries, who are responsible for managing on-ground emergencies and recovery efforts for biosecurity emergencies and natural disasters. The audit focused on both organisations’ capability and capacity to fulfil their responsibilities for emergency preparedness, response and recovery.

The Commission has provided is final report to the Minister for Primary Industries. The report will be made publicly available from this website following response from the Minister.

Audit of implementation of major reforms

The Commission has completed an audit of Local Land Services implementation of major reforms. The reforms are responsive to the 2014 report of the Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel, which concluded that fundamental change of the system was required to conserve biodiversity and support sustainable development.

Local Land Services’ Sustainable Land Management Group is responsible for administering the new rural land management framework, including providing extension and support to landholders. The Office of Environment and Heritage remains responsible for compliance and enforcement.

The audit focused on three key questions:

  1. whether Local Land Services' advice is accurate, consistent and timely
  2. whether communication activities increase the likelihood that landholders will understand their new obligations and they will consult with Local Land Services before undertaking land management activities
  3. whether Local Land Services is recording all decisions, advice and data required to meet reporting requirements and track outcomes.

The Commission has provided is final report to the Minister for Primary Industries. The report will be made publicly available from this website following response from the Minister.

Audits of Local Land Services in 2015-2016

In December 2016, the NSW Government supported all of the Commission’s recommendations from the 2015 and 2016 audits of Local Land Services’ governance and communications.

In 2015 and 2016, the Commission completed two priority audits of Local Land Services’ governance and communications. These themes were selected from the two-year audit plan for Local Land Services, which was endorsed by the Minister for Primary Industries. The audit plan was based on the risk assessment conducted by the Commission in collaboration with Local Land Services.

Governance audit

The governance audit focused on assessing key aspects of Local Land Services’ governance to provide a basis for accelerating organisational maturity and improving performance.

The Commission found areas of sound governance practice in Local Land Services, as well as significant areas for improvement. The Commission made recommendations in a number of core areas including governance structure, strategy, roles and accountabilities, systems, risk management, and culture and leadership.

Communications audit

The communications audit focused on assessing the overall maturity of Local Land Services’ communications and identifying opportunities for improving performance.

The audit identified good operational communications practices, and professional and diligent frontline service delivery staff across Local Land Services.

While many examples of sound on-ground communications practices were identified, the audit also highlighted insufficient valuing and prioritising of communications as a core business function. This has prevented Local Land Services from maximising customer service and stakeholder engagement efforts. Key recommendations relate to improving communications strategies, structure, leadership, skills, role clarity, stakeholder engagement and brand profile.

Final report - Local Land Services governance audit (October 2015)
Final report - Local Land Services communications audit (April 2016)
Government response - Governance audit
Government response - Communications audit

2014 Audit strategy

In July 2014, the Commission developed an audit strategy and approach to auditing outcomes in line with its legislative requirement to provide Government with independent advice on natural resource management, including through the specific function of undertaking audits, as required by the Minister.

Before that, the Commission released a quick reference guide to help determine the appropriate type of audit service based on level of assurance required, and a brochure introducing its independent audits.

Audit strategy (July 2014)
Introducing the Commission's audits of Local Land Services
Quick reference guide to Commission's audit services

Prior to Local Land Services

Prior to the establishment of Local Land Services in January 2014, Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) developed catchment action plans for their regions. The Commission audited the effectiveness of implementation of these plans in delivering social, economic and environmental outcomes in line with the state-wide standard and targets. These audit reports are available on the publications page.

The Commission's audits of catchment action plans provided the Government with an understanding of progress a CMA was making in effectively implementing its catchment action plan. The Commission's audits also guided the CMA Board in continual improvement.

The focus of the Commission's audits was to test whether regional planning, project implementation and business systems met the Standard for Quality Natural Resource Management and helped achieve state-wide targets for natural resource management.

In 2006, the Commission reviewed eight catchment action plans and recommended to Government for approval.

In 2008 and 2009, the Commission completed the first round of 13 audits of catchment action plan implementation. Nine CMAs demonstrated a very high or high level of effectiveness in implementing their catchment action plans, and four demonstrated a fair level of effectiveness. The Commission conducted second audits of the latter four CMAs to understand how plan implementation had progressed.

In 2010, the Commission used the information from comprehensive audits in reporting NSW's progress towards healthy, resilient landscapes.

In 2011, CMAs started upgrading their region's catchment action plans. The Commission collaborated with government agencies to develop an assessment framework setting out the review process for upgraded plans.

In 2013, the Commission assessed nine upgraded catchment action plans and recommended that Government approve these plans. The Commission also reported on lessons learned from upgrading plans and developed a Better Practice Guide to help Local Land Services adapt these plans to fit their regions. The 11 adapted LLS plans were reviewed by the Commission to ensure the integrity and intent of the original plans was maintained in the transition to Local Land Services. This rapid review was completed over a period of three weeks at the end of 2013 in time for the commencement of Local Land Services.

Progress report - Progress towards healthy, resilient landscapes (December 2010)
Upgrading catchment Action plans - Lessons for LLS (June 2013)
Better practice guide - Adapting catchment action plans to fit LLS (August 2013)