Page 5407 - Week 15 - Tuesday, 8 December 2009

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As I said, with this report, for the first time we have taken the second option of the more abbreviated inquiry because we felt that this is in fact a really important issue. The maintenance contract for public housing is the biggest ongoing private sector contract that the ACT government has, and just from knowing that it is clear that it is important for PAC to look at it.

The relevant department, the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services, took on initially 11 out of the 12 recommendations and then, subsequent to that, fully took on the last recommendation. So it was less necessary for PAC to do a full inquiry. We did a summary inquiry and produced the report which I am tabling today.

I would like briefly to go through some of the recommendations. The first recommendation we made was that government report back to this Assembly by the last sitting day in March next year, 2010, on the progress and effectiveness of the government’s implementation of the Auditor-General’s recommendations. We believe that the Auditor-General made some important recommendations and we want to see how well they are implemented.

Recommendation 2 has two parts. This is an important and large contract, and the last time it was let, very little time was put by the department into the reletting of the contract. The committee recommends that, given the size and importance of the contract, another audit be undertaken before the next letting of the contract, and that tenants’ views be sought as part of the audit. We see the second part of the recommendation, that tenants’ views be sought as part of the audit, as one of the most important things. Ultimately, the reason we are doing this maintenance is so that tenants will be happy, comfortable, safe and secure in their dwellings. It seemed to us to be a considerable oversight that the audit did not include the views of the ultimate consumers of what was being audited.

We then have another series of recommendations. As I alluded to earlier, previously, the government has not always allowed enough time to do the contract renewals, and that is dealt with in recommendation 3. In recommendation 4, we are continuing to follow up on the renewal of the next contract. Recommendation 5 comes directly from some of the evidence that Mr Hargreaves gave to the inquiry. We asked him about the level of maintenance that is done on our public housing stock. I will quote what he said. I asked him why we did not keep pace with the maintenance to keep the buildings to such a level. Mr Hargreaves answered:

… the plain and simple answer is that we have got too many properties and not enough money to do it with, historically.

We went on to discuss this at some length. The ACT currently has the oldest public housing stock in the nation, with some properties dating back to the 1920s. While this obviously presents issues for the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services, given the importance of the houses from two points of view—the lives of the people living in it and preserving the asset base of the ACT government and the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services—we think it is important that the funding is adequate to keep the asset base in good condition. So in our last

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