The Auditor General has criticised the Department of Housing for continued shortcomings in its head contractor model, which was designed to improve the maintenance of Homeswest properties across the state.
In a report out today, Auditor General Colin Murphy said implementation of the head contractor model should have been better planned and risks better identified.
He acknowledged that Housing has taken steps over the past two years to resolve the significant issues that have resulted, but still has a way to go.
In July 2010, Housing engaged three head contractors – Transfield Services, Lake Maintenance and Programmed Facility Management - to manage the delivery of day to day maintenance for over 40,000 properties across the state.
Prior to this Housing managed more than 700 contracts and 300 contractors to do its maintenance work.
Mr Murphy said many of the actions taken by Housing over the last two years have been effective, and day to day maintenance processes were now functioning as intended.
However, work was not being completed within the established timeframes, and KPIs around quality, cost and tenant satisfaction have yet to be developed.
“Tenant complaints have reduced significantly, from 21 per cent in December 2010 to 3.7 per cent in April 2012; vacant property numbers have returned to long term historical averages; overdue job orders have reduced from 15 000 in September 2011 to 7 000 in May 2012,” Mr Murphy said in a statement.
“However, in order to clear a back log of unpaid maintenance invoices Housing decided to process approximately $50 million of maintenance work from November 2010 to November 2011 without carrying out any inspections of the work prior to authorising payment, contravening a Treasurer’s Instruction.
“Housing has reviewed work between July and December 2010 and December 2011 and May 2012 and has identified $3.36 million in potential overcharges and non-compliant job orders, of which Housing has recovered almost $1 million from head contractors.
“Housing is still reviewing nearly a year’s worth of job orders and the full effects of suspending prepayment checks will not be known until this review is complete.”
The Auditor General said Housing has found no evidence of fraudulent activity but this remained a risk.
“The volume of job orders and claims (around 22 000 a month) and the complexity of using a schedule of rates covering multiple trades and hundreds of individual maintenance items, can make it very difficult to identify whether a non-compliant invoice is a genuine mistake or intended fraud.
“Housing needs to strengthen its processes and abilities in this area to address the perception of, and the potential occurrence of fraudulent activity.”
Shadow housing minister Peter Tinley said after two and-a-half years of the failed model, it was over budget and was still not meeting its key performance targets for timeliness of maintenance.
“When the Barnett Government implemented the new model in 2010, it promised it would result in $20million savings over three years.
“Just two years into the model it is more than $19million over budget,” he said.
“Week after week we hear stories of Western Australians forced to wait months for even the most basic maintenance.”