26 September 2023

Auditor ticks Sydney Metro’s property buys

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A performance audit of the Government’s purchases of private property for the Sydney Metro Project had found the Agencies’ acquisitions to be mostly effective.

In her report Government’s acquisition of private property: Sydney Metro project, Auditor-General Margaret Crawford said she audited Sydney Metro, the Department of Planning and Environment (Valuer General NSW) and Transport for NSW (the Centre for Property Acquisition).

Ms Crawford examined a sample of 20 property acquisitions however, she said this was not a statistically representative sample.

“Sydney Metro has been one of the largest acquirers of private property in recent years, completing over 500 acquisitions between 2020 and mid-2022, with a total acquisition value of over $2 billion,” Ms Crawford said.

“While our Report provides comments on Sydney Metro’s overall acquisition processes, it does not provide assurance regarding the acquisitions that were not examined for this audit.”

She said the acquisitions of property for the project were mostly effective in the sample assessed and Sydney Metro followed requirements for communication with affected parties.

Ms Crawford said compensation processes were conducted in compliance with legislative requirements, but compensation determinations for compulsory acquisitions were not completed within legislated time frames due to delays in receiving them from the Valuer General.

“We acknowledge that Sydney Metro does not have full control over this process, and that it has taken steps to mitigate the impact of delays on affected parties,” the Auditor-General said.

She said governance and probity processes were followed consistently, with some relatively minor exceptions.

Ms Crawford said Sydney Metro staff followed requirements for communication and support for residential acquisitions by assigning ‘personal managers’ and providing additional support to affected parties when needed.

“The Centre for Property Acquisition (CPA) has overseen reforms to the residential property acquisition process in recent years,” she said.

“These reforms include the introduction of the NSW Property Acquisition Standards and the use of personal managers, in addition to the existing acquisition managers, for residential acquisitions.

“However, the CPA has not assessed the impact of these changes on the experiences on people affected by property acquisitions.”

Ms Crawford made four recommendations to improve, plans and strategies for the acquisition of high-risk and high-value properties; timeliness of issuing compensation determinations for compulsory acquisitions; data quality on the experience of people subject to property acquisitions; and support improvements in the timeliness of the Valuer General’s compensation determinations.

The Auditor-General’s 28-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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