Auditor General’s report on Fitting and Maintaining Safety Devices in Public Housing

The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) conducted an audit to assess the Housing Authority’s effectiveness in its management of electrical safety devices (residual current devices and smoke alarms) in its 36,600 public housing properties.

A report was tabled in the Western Australian State Parliament on 11 May 2016 and can be accessed on the OAG website.

The Auditor General recommended that, by April 2017, the Housing Authority should:

  1. Establish a more strategic approach for the management of safety devices in public housing properties that includes adequate review and management oversight.
  2. Formally assess the risks associated with maintaining its properties in a safe condition and use this information to manage properties and set priorities.
  3. Introduce mandatory competency based training for all inspectors before they commence in the role.
  4. Establish a robust and timely process to improve visibility and follow-up of overdue property inspections and emergency work orders.
  5. Modify processes to ensure that the receipt of a travel claim from a contractor who was unable to gain entry to a property work orders are not closed.
  6. Ensure all required safety device information is recorded in Habitat.

The Housing Authority’s response to the Auditor General’s recommendations

The Authority accepts the recommendations contained within the report and accordingly has either adopted or commenced implementing actions to address each recommendation.

In relation to the Auditor General’s conclusions, it is noted in the report that the Authority is currently undertaking a $26 million, three-year Electrical Safety Device (ESD) Program. This is a comprehensive Program designed to check and collect detailed property level information on safety devices fitted to public housing properties. The ESD Program is the culmination of a number of initiatives required to ensure the Authority is able to provide a high level of assurance about safety devices in its public housing properties. The Authority has invested significantly over the past five years in improving its management of safety devices and has made substantial progress towards its goal of achieving a best practice approach to managing safety devices.

In managing the largest and most geographically diverse property portfolio in the State, the Authority recognises that it must remain vigilant and continue to raise assurance levels and take further steps to help mitigate safety risks. The report findings and recommendations reinforce the need for ongoing commitment to the initiatives and actions currently in train by the Authority to improve its management of safety devices in public housing. The report also provides valuable insights into opportunities for the Authority to implement immediate and longer term actions to further enhance its strategic management of risk.

The Authority has a clear plan and priority actions in place for the management safety devices in its dwellings. Since 2010 it has taken significant investment, time and resources to progress a number of the foundational elements required to address the issue. Given the systems and oversight now in place and adjustments made as a result of the audit findings and recommendations, the Authority will be able to provide necessary assurance that each property has working safety devices consistent with the time frame indicated in the audit.

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