Audit finds flaws in Landcare program unit

·1-min read

A key plank of Australia's Landcare program has been found lacking by the auditor-general, who found it was only "partly effective" in assuring value for money.

Examining the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment's handling of the Regional Land Partnerships program, the auditor also questioned whether it had achieved all its intended outcomes.

The program - a key element of the National Landcare Program - is providing $450 million between 2018/19 and 2022/23, aiming to promote conservation of threatened species, ecological communities and heritage values.

It follows past audit reports finding the delivery of natural resource management activities lacked clear selection processes, risk-based compliance strategies and performance monitoring.

Fifty service providers have been contracted to deliver 225 projects in 54 regions.

The program comprises 159 environment projects and 66 agriculture projects, with 22 projects completed as of September 9.

The latest report found the department had no formal process for recording decisions made on program risks.

And while a risk assessment document is given to an executive quarterly, it was not clear how that document is reviewed and updated.

It said management of program risks was only partly effective.

The auditor queried the rate of undocumented conflicts of interest, asking that the department ensure they are managed properly.

The report also found DAWE did not report annually on project deliverables as required.

DAWE accepted the report's four recommendations, which included implementing a process to manage program risks informed by risk assessments and compliance data, and determining whether an appropriate baseline has been set for each project.

It also agreed to implement a risk management process and improve the records of its meetings held to discuss projects.

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