Ombudsman: Safety compromised over building regulator’s misconduct

Photo: SafetyCulture Library

An Ombudsman inquiry into the Victorian Building Commission has found that the safety of many Victorians have been compromised because of maladministration and misconduct within the state’s building regulator which allowed sub-standard builders to obtain licence.

According to a report by Fairfax Media, Ombudsman George Brouwer tabled a report in parliament which questioned the integrity of the Commission, claiming that it spent at least $1.5 million of public funds on “questionable entertainment, hospitality and sponsoring industry bodies’ events and awards”.

He also found the state’s Building Practitioners Board, which received administrative support from the Commission, have awarded licences to builders who failed important stages of the assessment process.

The Ombudsman found some would-be builders sat the wrong tests or did not sit them at all; and that official files failed to record results of assessment processes for builders.

Former Building Practitioners Board registrar, Peter Brilliant was also found to have failed declaring several business interests in the building industry. He was also found to have approved applications for persons he know without any oversight from the board.

“I am in the view that, as a result of these concerns, the Practitioners Board could not have confidence that only competent, suitably qualified and experienced practitioners were registered to undertake building works in Victoria. This represents a substantial risk to public safety,” said Mr Brouwer.

On a report by The Australian, Peter Brilliant said he was devastated by an “unproven allegation” on the Ombudsman’s report.

“I am extremely concerned about what it is in the report but even more concerned about what has been left out,” Mr Brilliant told The Australian.

The Ombudsman also found senior commission executives spent more than $200,000 on entertainment and meals over a period of three years.

An amount totalling to almost $950,000 was spent in less than four years to sponsor events conducted by the Master Builders Association and Housing Industry Association of Victoria.

“I do not see any justification for the Commission to spend significant public finds on meals and entertainment for external stakeholders or its staff. In my view, there is an inherent conflict of interest in the Commission providing this entertainment when its core function is the regulation of the people it is entertaining,” said Mr Brouwer.

Current Building Commissioner Michael Kefford has acknowledged the report as an all-staff meeting was done yesterday afternoon.

Last month, Planning Minister Matthew Guy announced the abolition of the Building Commission, Plumbing Industry Commission and Architects Registration Board. It will be replaced by the Victorian Building Authority.

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