The building regulator in Queensland is set to go under review as dissatisfaction with its performance and accountability continue to mount.

Speaking in Parliament on November 16, Queensland Minister for Public Works and Procurement Mick de Brenni said his department had commissioned administrator Jim Varghese AM to lead an independent review of the governance of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC).

The review will consider the QBCC’s functions and internal process and provide recommendations about how its governance arrangements can be improved.

Specifically, it will look at the organisation’s structure and governance arrangements and consider whether or not any of its current functions should be either discontinued or reformed.

Of particular focus will be the organisation’s internal processes and complaints handling and its dispute resolution function.

The review will consider whether or not the organisation’s roles and responsibilities are clear and support good governance.

The review comes amid dissatisfaction with the regulator’s performance and a recent exodus of senior staff.

A Facebook Group known as the QBCC Action Group has 3,334 followers.

In its list of demands, the Group has called for a judicial inquiry which far exceeds that which was announced in scope and breadth.

In particular, the group says concerns need to be addressed across nineteen areas.

These include:

  • Outcomes and appropriateness of interactions and interventions between the Minister, Minister’s Office and QBCC board which relate to QBCC operational matters.
  • Potential conflicts of interest from QBCC board members or the Minister which may influence QBCC decision making and organisational policy.
  • Appropriateness of governing arrangements between the QBCC board and the Commissioner.
  • Whether or not the QBCC strikes the appropriate balance between the interests of building contractors as opposed to ensuring consumer protection and enforcing compliance with the National Construction Code and relevant Australian standards.
  • The performance of the organisation’s Internal Review Unit – including whether or not this is adequately separated from original decision makers and whether matters are being reviewed by those who are at least equal or superior to the original decision maker in terms of seniority.
  • The adequacy of resourcing for QBCC technical functions
  • Workplace culture and reasons behind a recent exodus of staff
  • The QBCC’s ability to provide timely remedies for effective building work
  • The adequacy of investigations which are undertaken into Tier 1 building works for structures which have extensive non-compliance with regard to the NCC or Australian standards and which may present safety risks.
  • The adequacy of protection under the state’s Home Warranty Scheme along with the appropriateness of payouts under this scheme being capped at $200,000.
  • Adequacy of support provided to consumers and the construction industry.
  • Adequacy of IT systems to ensuring that suitable data is securely retained and able to be recovered in event of tampering, loss or disaster.

The group’s page points to many stories where consumers have been hard done by.

One couple, Andrew and Leslie Hall, tried to raise their Brisbane home in order to better cater for the needs of their family.

Whilst they had believed the process would take only three months, a Nine News report says it has now been three years and the couple are in dispute with their builder.

Despite having hundreds of defects, the Commission reportedly brushed off their concerns. Despite not having performed any inspections, QBCC claimed that each of the defects were minor in nature.

This is despite engineers having told the couple that the house slab is defective according to QBCC’s own guidelines.

This was causing buckling in the floor and cracking in top and bottom corners.

According to that same report, another home-owner who tried to access information about their claim received a heavily redacted response.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that an email from within the QBCC’s RTI Department to the Director of Integrity read that:

“… we agree that all that can be taken out has been taken out.

“I’ve already taken out as much as I can in line with legal professional privilege.

“If this were to go to the Office of the Information Commissioner, more information would be released than what I have decided.”

Finally, in an absurd debacle, the QBCC reportedly had to temporarily stop issuing rectification orders amid concerns that these would be ineffective.

Whilst the orders were supposed to have powers to issue directions to rectify poor building work within 35 days, the timeframe was inadvertently left out of the legislation fine print – something which meant that the legislation was ineffective.

This has left open the possibility that builders who have delivered shoddy work could potentially challenge the validity or orders dating back as far as November 2019.

According to the aforementioned report, senior staff who have now left the organisation warned the government have warned the government repeatedly about the problem.

Speaking before Queensland Parliament, de Brenni said the review would be part of a ‘comprehensive and balance approach’ which would help to ensure quality and accountability in the industry.

“This review will consider the benefits of ensuring everyone is accountable for the security and sustainability of the industry,” he Brenni said.

“It will make sure that whether you invest in an apartment or development that you get what you’ve paid for, and the quality is up to scratch.”