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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 22 February 2018) . . Page.. 631 ..

It is important to note that this is the first independent compliance audit of a strategic assessment in Australia under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The audit was required by the commonwealth to be completed by 20 December 2017. The time line was met by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment. The audit was submitted to the ACT government on 20 November 2017 for transmission to the commonwealth by that date.

Strategic assessment audits are intended to assist us to protect biodiversity in the development of our city. In June 2016 the then Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Mr Simon Corbell, directed the commissioner to undertake this audit, pursuant to sections 12(1)(b) and 21(1)(a) of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment Act 1993. I received a copy of this report on 15 December 2017, under section 21 of the act. As the minister responsible for reports undertaken by the commissioner, I am tabling this report within the required six sitting days of receipt of the report.

In this audit the commissioner acknowledged the opportunities and challenges associated with strategic assessments. The audit was undertaken in accordance with the commonwealth’s Independent Audit and Audit Report Guidelines 2015, which establish strict requirements for compliance audits and the auditors.

The audit concluded the status of the 39 strategic assessment commitments as follows, and these are detailed on page 37 of the report: 14 were compliant, 13 were non-compliant, five were compliant with an observation, two were undetermined and five were not applicable. Many of the non-compliant commitments were in relation to late delivery of reports and outcomes or inadequate records being provided to the auditors. The commissioner applied a risk rating to commitments to ensure that effort is placed on the most critical elements. Compliance regarding five commitments was assessed as high to very high risk.

Five corrective action requests were issued to the ACT government. Relevant agencies have been required to undertake action to eliminate the cause of non-compliance, reduce risks associated with the non-compliance or prevent the non-compliance from recurring. I am pleased to advise that agencies have provided responses to all five of the corrective action requests in accordance with established time frames.

This independent compliance audit was finalised in consultation with the ACT government, and coordinated by the impact assessment team in the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate. The commissioner has provided eight recommendations for government to consider in the ongoing implementation of the Gungahlin strategic assessment, and these are outlined on page 64. In summary, there is an opportunity for the ACT to improve its approach to this strategic assessment. Although in general it appears that adequate progress is being made against the conditions of approval, there is a need to maintain our efforts for another 15 years and beyond.

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