The department received a request for access to email advice related to the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement Industry Development Program. In response, two documents have been released under section 23(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). To download the documents, visit The Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement Industry Development Programs.
The Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement Industry Development Program ran from 2006–07 to 2009–10.
In 2010, the department engaged Ernst & Young to conduct an independent audit of the program. The Ernst & Young evaluation report was finalised in mid–2011 and was published on the department’s website in November 2011.
Ernst & Young reported that there was one project where the delegate approval to spend public money was not adequately evidenced on file, and recommended that, “The potential breach of FMA regulation 9 should be investigated by the department and disclosed in the department’s Certificate of Compliance Schedule reported to Finance.”
The Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) Regulation 9 requires that an approver must not approve a spending proposal unless they are satisfied that it would be an efficient, effective, economic and ethical use, and that such a payment would be consistent with government policy.
The potential breach was investigated by the department. A copy of a signed approval by the then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator, the Hon. Eric Abetz, was not on the file. The file did however contain an email, from an advisor in the office of the former minister, stating that the minister had approved the project. This email advice was accepted by the department’s then First Assistant Secretary responsible for the program.
The absence of there being a document where the approver has recorded their actual signature against the approval of this one project is a minor breach of FMA Act Regulation 9, and was reported to the area within the department that oversights compliance with the FMA Act and prepares the Certificate of Compliance.
To prevent this from happening in future, the department has developed specific Regulation 9 approval minute templates for the minister and internal delegates to ensure approvals are correctly documented. These include standard advice to approvers of their obligations under the FMA Act and Regulations, including Regulation 9.
The department has also established a grants management framework under which all grants programs and individual grants must operate. The framework reflects the Commonwealth Grant Guidelines and the ANAO’s guide ‘Implementing Better Practice Grants Administration’.
The department’s grant management framework is administered by a specialist area, the Grants Policy Section, which provides advice and support to all line areas responsible for the development and delivery of grants programs. The Grants Policy Section has developed a suite of supporting documentation for line areas to use during grants administration, including a Grants Management Manual; training on the updated Commonwealth Grants Guidelines for all staff and external assessors involved in grants administration; standardised funding deeds (including short funding deeds for ‘low risk’ grants), and additional templates and checklists to support grants processes.