26 September 2023

Barrier Reef audit rides past waves

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A follow-up audit into whether the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) had implemented a permissions system to manage risk has found the Authority’s regulation of permits and approvals were partially effective.

Auditor-General Grant Hehir said his report, Regulation of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Permits and Approvals — Follow-up, examined whether GBRMPA’s permissions system appropriately managed risk and preserved the environmental, social and economic significance of the Marine Park and its World Heritage listing.

Mr Hehir said GBRMPA accepted all five audit recommendations from his 2015–16 audit report Regulation of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Permits and Approvals, including a five-year plan to address the recommendations by the end of 2019–20, but hadn’t fully implemented them.

“GBRMPA’s regulation of permits and approvals is partially effective,” Mr Hehir said.

“Once fully implemented, changes to permissions monitoring and non-compliance management introduced in early 2021 have the potential to improve regulation of permits and approvals,” he said.

“Arrangements for managing and monitoring permissions are partially appropriate.”

Mr Hehir said arrangements for processing, assessing and approving permit applications were largely appropriate, however, GBRMPA hadn’t established efficiency metrics which demonstrated that it was properly managing the public resources for which it was responsible.

The Auditor-General said GBRMPA had partially implemented an appropriate non-compliance framework.

“Further planned improvements are required to fully implement these elements,” he said.

“Permissions non-compliance activities up to March 2021 were not supported by appropriate procedures or information systems.”

Mr Hehir made seven recommendations, including that GBRMPA review and finalise internally managed business procedures; establish efficiency indicators; improve monitoring of training requirements and conflict of interest declarations; implement agreed review recommendations; implement improved governance arrangements for monitoring the implementation of parliamentary committee and external audit recommendations; establish a performance framework; and implement arrangements to provide assurance on legislated delegations.

The Auditor-General’s Report can be viewed online at this PS News link and his 72-page printed Report at this link.

The audit team was Jacqueline Hedditch, Joshua Francis, Se Eun Lee, Matthew Rigter, Stevan Serafimov and Michael White.

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