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Corporate accountability

Corporate planning

The MDBA’s planning, performance and reporting framework is supported by policies and guidelines and, where appropriate, external review.

The corporate plan is the key planning document, setting out how the MDBA plans to meet its goals, how this relates to its purpose and how it will measure success. These results are reported each year in the annual report.

These documents and other accountability information is on the MDBA website (link).

The MDBA’s ability to achieve its goals and respond to change relies on sound corporate planning and timely review and improvement of processes and systems. Strategies include:

  • streamlining governance arrangements
  • improving knowledge management and capabilities
  • exploring opportunities to use shared services
  • enhancing performance measurement frameworks
  • enhancing transparency about MDBA communications, partnerships and engagement.

Risk management

The MDBA’s approach to risk management is to foster a positive risk culture and engage proactively with risk at all levels of the organisation. This approach is consistent with the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy and the International Standard for Risk Management (AS ISO 31000:2018) and is regarded as best practice in practical management of risk.

Risk management framework

The MDBA reviews and updates the risk management framework and policy every two years and continually monitors and reviews risks, risk controls and treatments. Progress against the implementation of treatments is reported each quarter to the Ministerial Council, Basin Officials Committee and Audit Committee.

Risk management is integrated into MDBA planning and business systems. Each business unit in the organisation conducts environmental scanning. This information feeds into the MDBA Enterprise Risk Management Plan as part of annual business and risk planning.

The MDBA’s risk appetite and tolerance for each major business function is established in the Risk Management Framework and Policy. The MDBA is more tolerant of risk where positive engagement with risk presents opportunities for innovation, improvement and building capability and capacity.

It has a low appetite for fraud, work health and safety, and compliance risk impact.

The MDBA has identified at the enterprise level those risks that interact with its strategic objectives. These risks are identified from an analysis of the sources of risk for the MDBA and evaluated against the MDBA’s risk categories. It ensures risks have full visibility across the business of the agency and are appropriately treated.

The MDBA has articulated several activity-based sub-risks for key enterprise risks. This sits with an analysis of all the causes of risk, critical controls and an assessment of the effectiveness of those controls. The approach:

  • allows the MDBA to make informed decisions for the allocation of resources for the management of risk and the achievement of objectives
  • enables MDBA personnel to have a clear line of sight between their day-to-day work as a ‘first line of defence’ in risk management and the overall objectives of the MDBA.

As part of managing risk, all new employees and contractors receive mandatory risk management induction and online training in ethics, fraud and conflicts of interest (this includes managing sensitive water market information).

Insurances

Comcover provides the MDBA’s insurance cover. Insurable risks are identified and assessed annually through Comcover’s insurance renewal process. A Benchmarking Survey is undertaken biennially Comcover and was not conducted in the reporting period.

The MDBA is separately insured by Comcare for workers compensation for employees

Fraud

The MDBA’s fraud control arrangements align with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework. This framework establishes systems and processes for preventing, detecting, monitoring, evaluating, reporting and responding to fraud. The MDBA regularly reviews its fraud prevention and control measures, which include fraud risk assessment and the fraud control plan.

In 2019–20, there was a report of suspected fraud. Detailed inquiries showed there were business improvement opportunities. No evidence of fraud was found.

Business continuity and ICT disaster recovery plans

The MDBA has three main documents that outline arrangements for recovering from a business disruption:

  • MDBA Business Continuity Plan
  • River Murray system emergency action plan
  • ICT disaster recovery plan.

Each plan is updated as required and at a minimum, annually. The ICT disaster recovery arrangements are tested at desktop level.

During 2019–20, the major business continuity event was the MDBA response to COVID-19, with all staff directed to work from home where practicable. The response to COVID-19 presented the MDBA with the opportunity to test in real time, and continuously improve, its critical incident and business continuity framework and operating environment and infrastructure.

Internal audit

Internal audit services were provided by KPMG in 2019–20. Internal audit plans were developed in consultation with senior managers and the risk management plan.

The internal audit reports finalised during the year were:

  • Information Security Risk Management
  • River Asset Management.

The audit reports did not raise any serious matters. The implementation of internal audit report recommendations is monitored by the Audit Committee.

Compliance reporting

It is a requirement of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) that the MDBA reports significant non-compliance with finance law. Finance law includes:

  • the PGPA Act
  • the Public, Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule)
  • instruments made under the PGPA Act (including Accountable Authority Instructions) and Appropriation Acts.

The compliance reporting process helps to identify and disclose instances of non-compliance with the PGPA framework, as a basis for continuous improvement.

There were no significant reportable breaches of the PGPA Act, the PGPA Rule or Australian Government policies in 2019–20.

Audit Committee

The Audit Committee provides independent advice and assurance to the MDBA on performance reporting, financial reporting, risk oversight and management, and internal control systems. It also monitors the implementation of internal and Australian National Audit Office audit report recommendations.

Table 3.1 shows membership of the committee and other relevant details.

The Audit Committee Charter is on the MDBA website Audit Committee Charter (mdba.gov.au).

Table 3.1 Audit committee

Member name

Qualifications, knowledge, skills or experience

Meetings attended/total number of meetings

Total annual remuneration

Jenny Morison FCA (Chair)

Independent member

Jenny has 38 years of experience in the accounting, commerce and government. She was a National Board Member of the Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand for 4 years. Jenny was the CFO of a public company and has held senior positions in the major international accounting firms. She founded Morison Consulting Pty Limited in 1996. Jenny originally specialised in implementation of Commonwealth financial reforms and then project managed significant process reform projects in the Department of Defence. She was awarded a Centenary medal in 2000 for services to accounting.

For the last 15 years, Mrs Morison has become one of the most experienced independent member and Chair of Commonwealth audit and risk committees. Her current portfolio of agencies covers 45% of the total spend of the Australian Government.

9 (includes ordinary, special and Joint Venture)

$23,100.00 based on $5,775.00/quarter

Karen Hogan

(deputy Chair)

Independent member

Over the past 10 years, Karen has contributed as a member of several audit committees in various Australian Government agencies, including chairing the audit committee in one agency. Karen has extensive leadership experience in accounting, finance, corporate governance, risk, procurement, information technology and human resources. This experience encompasses both the public and private sectors and has been gained in such diverse areas as the cultural institutions, regulation, manufacturing, energy, farming, tourism and fast-moving consumer products. Areas of interest are improving financial literacy, the exploitation of technology and improving corporate governance in an efficient and effective manner.

9 (includes ordinary, special and Joint Venture)

$9,754.00 based on $172.50/hour

Andrew Reynolds

Advisory member for MDBA Joint Venture

Executive Director, River Management Division

(see Andrew’s biographical details at page x)

9 (includes ordinary, special and Joint Venture)

$0

Carl Binning*

Advisory member+

Deputy Chair, Joint Venture

Former Executive Director, Science, Knowledge and Engagement

Carl has more than 25 years of experience in natural resource management. He has had executive roles in the government, research, not-for-profit, mining and consulting sectors.

Carl brings to the role a depth of experience and understanding of the social, economic and environmental drivers in Australia’s landscapes.

5 (includes ordinary, special and Joint Venture)

$0

Dr Tony McLeod

Advisory member+

General Manager, SDL Accounting and Aboriginal Partnerships

Tony has extensive experience in a scientifically-based working environment related to water policy development, implementation and working with states and territories. He has long-term SES experience in the Australian Public Service including a key role in the development and implementation of the Water Act, amendments to the Act in 2008 and the 2012 Murray-Darling Basin Plan. He has a PhD in Environmental Engineering.

6 (includes ordinary, special and Joint Venture)

$0

Dr Peta Derham#

Advisory member+

Former A/g Executive Director, Water Resource Planning and Accounting

Peta has over 20 years of experience in natural resource management across all tiers of government. She has been involved with the development of the Basin Plan since 2010. Since 2012, Peta has led the implementation of key elements of the Basin Plan including the Northern Basin Review and sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism. Her early career was focused on water quality and dryland salinity management. Peta has a PhD in Chemistry and an honours degree in Botany.

4 (includes ordinary and Joint Venture)

$0

*Carl Binning left the Audit Committee when he left the MDBA in December 2019

+Advisory members are not appointed under the PGPA Act

#Dr Derham left the MDBA in mid-June 2020

External scrutiny

Under s. 17AG (3) of the PGPA Rule, the MDBA is required to report on external scrutiny of the MDBA by certain bodies. These include parliamentary committees, the courts and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Auditor-General reports

The MDBA’s financial statements are audited by the Auditor-General.

The Australian National Audit Office made no formal reports relating to the MDBA during 2019–20.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman made no formal reports relating to the MDBA during 2019–20.

Parliamentary committees

No ongoing inquiries were completed during 2019–20.

On 5 February 2020, the Australian Government tabled its response to the Senate Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy report, Inquiry into the management and use of Commonwealth environmental water.

Judicial decisions and tribunals

There were no judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals relating to the MDBA made during 2019–20.

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

There were no findings or reviews made by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner relating to MDBA freedom of information or privacy matters during 2019–20.

Freedom of information

Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act), individuals have the right to access copies of documents held by Australian Government ministers and agencies. There are some exceptions.

During 2019–20, the MDBA received three freedom of information requests. All requests were processed in accordance with the statutory timeframes and the MDBA met all reporting obligations under the FOI Act.

Under the FOI Act, the MDBA is required to publish a range of information on its website as part of the Information Publication Scheme.

This information includes:

  • the organisational structure
  • what the MDBA does and how it does it
  • statutory appointments
  • annual reports
  • consultation arrangements and other information held
  • details of how to obtain information released after freedom of information requests
  • information routinely provided to parliament.

The MDBA’s approach is outlined in the Murray–Darling Basin Authority Information Publication Scheme Agency Plan.

Ministerial directions and government policy orders

Under the PGPA Rule, the MDBA is required to report on any ministerial directions given to it under an Act or instrument. The MDBA did not receive any ministerial directions during 2019–20.

Under the PGPA Act (s. 22) the MDBA must report on any government policy orders that applied to it during the reporting period. The MDBA was not subject to any government policy orders during this period.

Advertising and market research

Under s. 17AH of the PGPA Rule, the MDBA is required to report on any advertising and market research done during the financial year above the threshold set out in s. 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

During the reporting period the MDBA did not have any costs that met or were above the threshold.

Ecological sustainability and environmental performance

Ecological sustainability is at the core of the MDBA’s activities and reflected in the Water Act. As per the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 the MDBA is required to report on its environmental performance. This includes how the MDBA is considering the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) in its business activities.

There are five principles of ESD:

  • the integration principle—decision-making processes should effectively integrate both longterm and short-term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations
  • the precautionary principle—if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation
  • the intergenerational principle—the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations
  • the biodiversity principle—the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision-making
  • the valuation principle—improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms should be promoted.

Table 3.2 shows some examples of how the MDBA is meeting and advancing these principles in its work.

Table 3.2 MDBA performance in ecologically sustainable development

MDBA activity

How activity meets and furthers ESD principles

Developing and implementing the Basin Plan

Meets the integration principle by incorporating long- and short-term considerations of economic, environmental, social and equitable aspects

Meets the biodiversity principle by including biodiversity considerations in decision-making

Meets the intergenerational principle by ensuring the health of the Basin is preserved for future generations

Facilitating the development and implementation of environmental watering plans, including plans in the northern Basin toolkit measures

Meets the integration principle by incorporating long- and short-term considerations of economic, environmental, social and equitable aspects

Meets the precautionary principle by acting to prevent potential environmental damage

Meets the biodiversity principle by including biodiversity considerations in decision-making

Meets the intergenerational principle by ensuring the health of the Basin is preserved for future generations

Reporting on the social, economic, cultural, hydrological, water quality and ecological conditions of the Murray–Darling Basin

Meets the integration principle by incorporating long- and short-term considerations of economic, environmental, social and equitable aspects

Meets the precautionary principle by acting to prevent potential environmental damage

Meets the biodiversity principle by including biodiversity considerations in decision-making

Meets the intergenerational principle by ensuring the health of the Basin is preserved for future generations

Using satellite imagery to watch over the 1 million square kilometre Murray–Darling and better manage water

Meets the integration principle by incorporating long- and short-term considerations of economic, environmental, social and equitable aspects

Meets the biodiversity principle by including biodiversity considerations in decision-making

Meets the intergenerational principle by ensuring the health of the Basin is preserved for future generations

Directing river operations in the River Murray in accordance with the objectives and outcomes set by the Basin Officials Committee

Meets the integration principle by incorporating long- and short-term considerations of economic, environmental, social and equitable aspects

Meets the biodiversity principle by including biodiversity considerations in decision-making

Meets the intergenerational principle by ensuring the health of the Basin is preserved for future generations

Environmental performance

The MDBA takes a proactive approach to managing its activities in way that minimises the effect on the environment. This approach is shown in Table 3.3.

Table 3.3 MDBA’s environmental performance

Theme

MDBA measures

Energy efficiency

  • Sourcing the highest energy-saving whitegoods and ICT equipment that meet our business needs
  • Installing LED lighting with movement sensors throughout MDBA offices and turning lights off in areas not in use
  • Using power-efficient centralised multi-function devices instead of desktop printers
  • Directly heating all hot water in kitchens through zip heater systems
  • Achieving a 5.5 star NABERS Energy Tenancy rating for the MDBA Canberra office space
  • Asking staff to:
    • turn off lights to rooms when not in use
    • turn off computer monitors overnight

Waste

  • Minimising paper and toner usage by defaulting printer settings to print paper double-sided and use black and white ink
  • Minimising paper usage by enabling ‘swipe-to-print’, allowing staff to only print the documents they need
  • Publishing only in electronic format, unless a need for print copies is required
  • Recycling a total of 171,540 litres of waste in the Canberra office, along with operating soft plastic, battery, organic and coffee pod recycling programs—these practices are also being established in the new regional offices
  • Using toilet tissue supplies from a company that uses 100% renewable resources and donates 50% of profits to help build ablution blocks for those communities in need

Water

  • Working with building management in all MDBA office locations on water-saving initiatives including installing:
    • water-efficient toilets
    • low-flow shower heads
    • sensor-operated taps in bathrooms
    • low-flow taps in all kitchen areas

Travel

  • Encouraging staff to minimise non-essential travel and providing all staff with access to video conferencing software to facilitate electronic meetings
  • Supporting staff who cycle to work by providing a secured bike storage area, lockers and showers—around 45% of staff regularly cycle commute to work