Auditor-General finds room for improvement in public housing

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THE ACT Auditor?General, Dr Maxine Cooper, has presented a report on the Maintenance of Public Housing to the Speaker for tabling in the ACT Legislative Assembly.  

“Maintenance of public housing is a key function of the ACT Government, with public housing assets valued at over $4 billion and providing accommodation for nearly 6 percent of the ACT population,” Maxine said.

“Public housing maintenance in the ACT is planned and arranged by a private sector company (Spotless Pty Ltd), under contract to the ACT Government. The current contract with Spotless was signed in 2012 and is valued at $240 million over five years, including the direct cost of maintenance and the value of the management fee payable. It is one of the Territory’s largest ongoing contracts.   

“The provision of maintenance for the Territory’s public housing stock is a significant task. Last year, public housing tenants made nearly 75 000 calls requesting maintenance services, and over 80 000 individual maintenance and improvement jobs, valued at more than $41 million, were commissioned.

“Managing the public housing maintenance contract poses many challenges. While Housing and Community Services has positioned itself positively to meet these challenges, particularly through establishing a sound governance framework for the maintenance contract, its management of the contract has not been fully effective. In particular, in the course of the audit we found a lack of effective risk management, and deficiencies in Housing and Community Services’ oversight of Spotless’ quality control arrangements. This included a failure to enforce key provisions of the contract with Spotless in relation to quality and continuous improvement.”

Dr Cooper has called for improvements in the management of the contract, including fully implementing the planned governance framework, improving the identification and management of risk, strengthening the oversight of quality control systems, and better managing contract variations.

UPDATE: The Liberals’ Nicole Lawder had this to say:

An Auditor-General’s report released today has found the facilities management contract worth tens of millions of dollars annually for ACT public housing hasn’t been properly managed by the government, Shadow Minister for Housing Nicole Lawder said today.

“This report shows that Housing ACT and the Community Services Directorate’s management of the Total Facilities Management contract is ‘not fully effective’. This is concerning given that this contract is valued at $48 million a year, and is one of the ACT government’s biggest ongoing contracts,” Ms Lawder said.

“The report has also found that:

“Importantly, work order audits undertaken by Spotless have been problematic and Housing and Community Services has not enforced the necessary and required standard for these audits” Pg1-2

“Housing and Community Services has no visibility over the reviews undertaken by Spotless’ Works Supervisors for checking that work orders have been completed” Pg 5

“Current reporting does not provide Housing and Community Services with adequate visibility over Spotless’ Work Supervisors inspections of works undertaken by Spotless or its sub-contractors” Pg 6

“I often receive complains from public housing tenants about the quality and timeliness of maintenance of public housing properties. The Minister needs make sure proper management is in place to ensure effective outcomes for residents and efficient management of the assets,” Ms Lawder concluded.

Minister responsible Yvette Berry on the other hand notes that many tenants are unwilling to report as being unhappy and that she’ll think about it.

We know from a 2015 survey that 82% of social and community housing tenants are satisfied with the overall service from maintenance contractors, however if any of our public housing tenants are concerned about the quality of the work undertaken by a contractor at their property I would encourage them to contact Housing and Community Services directly on 6207 1515.

The ACT Government is committed to providing the best possible accommodation and support to the 23,000 tenants who reside in approximately 11,600 public and community housing properties, and also in providing value for money to the Canberra community.

The ACT Government will provide a formal response to the recommendations of the audit in due course.

[Photo by woodleywonderworks, attribution licence]>

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  1. The maintenance has to be mininimal so the ABC Flats, and others, can be described by the government as “run down”. Who else can run them down?

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