Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 March 2015) . . Page.. 999 ..
Notwithstanding the above, the audit was of the view that the safeguards for mitigating improper influence in the DA exemption and DA merit track assessment process for single dwellings needed to be strengthened in accordance with the recommendations of the audit.
As noted by the audit, an important safeguard found to be absent was the auditing of the decisions made by certifiers as to whether a proposed development qualified as DA exempt. The importance of such safeguards cannot be underestimated in terms of their overall contribution to confidence in the planning system. Again, as noted by the audit report:
Safeguards are important as the ACT’s complex planning framework and discretionary decision-making powers provide the opportunity for improper influence to occur.
The audit made 14 recommendations to address the auditor’s findings across three audit themes, being case study, certification and development applications. The government agreed to all 14 recommendations.
The committee has carefully considered the progress in relation to agreed recommendations post presentation of the audit report. While most of the 14 recommendations are complete, the committee noted some inconsistencies with regard to reported status. The committee has noted these matters in its report. The committee has made one recommendation regarding a final update on the implementation status of the recommendations by October 2015.
The committee report said, in summary:
Confidence in the planning system is a fundamental requisite in determining the extent to which the System contributes to economic vibrancy, environmental enhancement and well-being of present and future generations.
… whilst the Audit found no evidence of improper influence for the seven cases examined, it found weaknesses concerning safeguards for mitigating improper influence in the DA exemption and DA Merit Track assessment processes. The Audit made 14 recommendations to address these findings.
… The Committee emphasises that the importance of robust safeguards to mitigate risk of improper influence cannot be underestimated in terms of their overall contribution to confidence in the planning system. Accordingly, the Committee is of the view that the Audit has been important in assessing whether planning processes for single dwelling developments may be at risk to improper influence.
I thank the Auditor-General, the Minister for Planning and directorate and agency officials for their time, expertise and cooperation during the course of the inquiry. I conclude by thanking my committee colleagues, Ms Porter, Ms Lawder and Ms Fitzharris, for their efforts and, particularly, thanking the committee secretary, Dr Cullen, for her work. I commend the report to the Assembly. My committee colleagues may also wish to provide some comment.