A vocal critic of building industry regulation in Victoria has condemned the supervision of building surveyors in that state, saying the system lacks accountability and does not punish those who fail to discharge their responsibilities in an adequate manner.

Despite acknowledging that the majority of surveyors do the right thing, Builders Collective of Australia national president Phil Dwyer said ‘a certain element’ of people were giving the industry a bad name through ‘cosy’ relationships with developers and were not being held to account by authorities.

“Basically, there is no accountability,” Dwyer said when asked about the regulation of building surveyors in Victoria. “There does seem to be areas and projects where we have found that situations [of inadequate work being certified] exist. [But] nothing seems to ever happen. There doesn’t appear to be any accountability at this time.

“As with any profession, the majority of people and the majority of surveyors probably do a very good job. But there is a certain element that seem to have these cosy arrangements and they let the whole industry down.”

Dwyer’s comments follow the release of a Fairfax Media examination of data last week which found that building surveyors throughout the state had been found guilty of more than 700 misconduct claims since 2009 and that many had ignored illegal building work, overlooked serious fire risks or issued occupancy permits in cases where the building was not fit for occupation.

That analysis, in turn, followed the collapse of a building site in Mount Waverley along with the release in May of a damning Auditor General’s report which said that the building regulatory system in Victoria was overly complex and was failing consumers.

Around Australia, building surveyors have come under scrutiny following a number of building control failures which have led to defects and – in the case of a Docklands apartment complex in Melbourne – the spread of fire as a result of combustible cladding.

In a recent address to the Queensland chapter of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors, construction industry lawyer Professor Kim Lovegrove FAIB said surveyors should be appointed by owners rather than builders; limited to assessing approvals on the basis of compliance with prescriptive regulations; given suitable powers to issue compliance notices and enforcement orders; and subject to ethical requirements which are codified in acts of Parliament (NSW already does this), a mandatory auditing regime and a floor or fees to ensure these are adequate so as to enable the performance of duties in a satisfactory manner.