Shock, horror, more bad news on the quality of private certifiers

The shortcomings of the private certification system continue.

The ACT Auditor-General Maxine Cooper has conducted an investigation into development assessments and made observations about “potentially improper” relationships between builders and certifiers. Oh no, another “we told you so” moment.

“Dr Cooper has called for more auditing of certifiers’ decisions, more training for certifiers and a public register of demerit points against them”, according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by authoritative local government editor Harvey Grennan on 22 July. The Herald reports that the Auditor-General’s office conducted seven case studies and “found that two dwellings should have been subject to a full development application and three others gave rise to consideration of disciplinary action against certifiers.”

Dr Cooper criticised the inadequacy of penalties against certifiers and prominent authority on construction liability and certification, Kim Lovegrove, Melbourne solicitor and partner in a building and planning law firm Lovegrove Smith and Cotton, observed that “the Auditor-General has hit on a number of serious issues which extend beyond ACT borders.”

“Last year my colleague Stephen Smith called for a number of reforms to private certification more generally, including not only mandatory auditing and continuing professional development for certifiers, independent peer review, more oversight powers and higher penalties but also a regulated floor on certifier fees to ensure these cannot drop to a level which would compromise professional standards”, Professor Lovegrove said.

The Herald observes “the Canberra findings mirror some of those of the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal in a draft report on local government compliance and enforcement released in May. This found inadequate penalties being imposed. Disciplinary action was taken against only 1% of all accredited certifiers and 0.1% received more than a fine and a reprimand. No action was taken on 72% of all complaints.”

There have been no adverse findings against accredited council employees.

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