26 September 2023

Building regulator up in the air

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The Queensland Audit Office has issued an assessment on whether the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) was effectively regulating the building industry by issuing and managing licences in a fair and balanced way.

It found that the QBCC was struggling to keep pace with a fast-changing industry.

Auditor-General, Brendan Worrall said the audit found that the QBCC recognised the imperative to move from a complaints-driven licensing authority to a risk-focused, insights-driven regulator.

“Over the past 20 years, the industry has changed significantly.” Mr Worrall said. “Building has become more complex and lifestyles have changed.

“The increase in high-rise, medium-density residential housing creates new risks and challenges for regulation,” he said.

“Events in other jurisdictions and overseas show what can happen if the behaviour of the building industry does not meet community expectations and accepted building standards.”

He said that in 2016 the QBCC refocused its role as a regulator, away from a complaints-driven licensing authority.

“QBCC now has more powers to enforce the integrity and probity of the sector, and the community expects it to use these powers,” Mr Worrall said.

“It has the building blocks needed to transform the organisation, but implementing and embedding these into the organisation is taking time. Progress is hindered by a lack of data, resources, skills, and capability.”

He said managing licences needed a more targeted compliance program to be fully effective. The current program, while driven by agreed priorities, was too operational.

Mr Worrall said there was a risk that fraud in relation to licence applications could go undetected but control changes that were relatively easy to implement could mitigate the risk.

“We made 11 recommendations to help QBCC become a stronger and more effective regulator, including strengthening controls and improving planning and reporting,” the Auditor-General said.

“They highlight the critical need for QBCC to commit resources and build capability as it becomes a risk-focused, insights-driven regulator,” he said.

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