Acknowledging stakeholder ‘anger’ and ‘frustration’, Jim Varghese AM has urged the QBCC to “transform itself into an outcomes-focused statutory agency.” Mr Varghese’s observations and no less than 17 recommendations for reform are made in his report on the QBCC Governance Review 2022 (the Varghese Report).
The Varghese Report identifies ‘perceptions of bias and/or a conflict of interest’ in the execution of multiple QBCC functions, and includes several recommendations that seek to enhance the transparency of various QBCC functions and improve consistency in QBCC decision making (including when penalties are imposed).
Recommendations for reform include:
- prioritising a ‘sustainable funding model’, suggesting changes to levies and licensing fees.
- use of a precedent register to record decisions imposing penalties, facilitating the application of similar penalties in similar circumstances.
- informing complainants of the outcome of their complaint, with reasons.
- training QBCC staff so that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to assess QBCC licence applications.
- establishing a Resolution Services Unit, consolidating the existing security of payment (Building Industry Fairness Act) Adjudication Registry, QBCC’s Internal Review Unit and the existing mediation service (defective work complaints).
The Resolution Services Unit would have “a stretch target of reducing escalation of disputes to QCAT by 90 per cent”. It would provide “end-to-end resolution services including both mediation and arbitration to resolve defective building work disputes in a timely manner”. Permitting (or requiring) arbitration of domestic building disputes would be a substantial change. Also, mediations would no longer be limited to active contracts, and would be undertaken by trained mediators (rather than QBCC inspectors) .
In response to the Varghese Report, the Queensland government has confirmed it “supports the 17 recommendations (in principle), and is committed to addressing the independent reviewer’s findings to deliver reforms that reflect the outcomes being sought.”
The following table summaries Mr Varghese’ 17 recommendations, and the Queensland government’s response:
The Department of Energy and Public Works has also released a 90 Day Action Plan in order to implement the recommendations.