Report finds serious flaws in flooding rebuild approach

AN AUDIT has exposed serious flaws in Queensland's approach to rebuilding large parts of the state devastated during the 2011 floods.

The highly scathing Australian National Audit Office report, tabled in Parliament this week, found both Queensland and Victoria failed to meet the requirements of the National Partnership Agreements each state struck with the Federal Government in the wake of that unforgettable summer.

Given the scale of the damage Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced new accountability and oversight measures, which were given effect through the NPAs, to ensure the $7 billion federal contribution to the recovery was not wasted.

Each state was required to devise a flood recovery work plan listing specific projects.

The audit found neither state provided the additional oversight and accountability that had been envisaged.

Queensland's one-page work plan, which was finalised in August 2011 after five drafts, failed to identify any specific reconstruction projects.

Joe Ludwig, the Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery, signed off on the plan even though he was "not provided with any advice as to whether the work plan met the requirements of the NPA".

The ANAO was also highly critical of the National Disaster Recovery Taskforce, the body tasked with overseeing the reconstruction.

This taskforce was required to provide Cabinet with monthly progress reports and updated estimates of the Federal Government's liability.

This meant Queensland and Victoria were required to provide the taskforce with regular reports on whether projects were progressing on time and budget.

But the audit found the monthly reporting lacked adequate oversight of whether project milestones and outcomes were being met.

In the case of Queensland, which began reporting in March 2011, neither the Queensland Reconstruction Authority nor the taskforce were found to have fulfilled their obligations.

"While not containing information on project milestones, monthly reports from Queensland have included some data on projects being delivered by LGAs," the report read.

"However, the more recent reports have not included information on the value of each such project. Similar data has not been reported for those projects being delivered by state agencies.

"There is limited evidence of the taskforce analysing the information that has been reported to it by Queensland.

Such analysis could usefully have focused on trends, and would beneficially have also drawn attention to the lack of project-specific reporting in respect to state delivery agencies and lack of clarity surrounding progress towards actual completion of the state reconstruction program."

In Queensland, the ANAO conceded it would have been difficult to have a complete list of projects during the early stages of reconstruction.

But the taskforce failed to chase up regular updates on projects as they arose, the audit found.

The ANAO made two recommendations to improve the efficiency of the reconstruction progress, including better data collection, analysis and reporting arrangements.

Senator Ludwig said the government accepted the recommendations, but defended the recovery process.

"The level of oversight and assurance put in place for the 2011 natural disasters is more robust than anything that existed previously, particularly for Queensland," he said.

"From the Commonwealth's perspective, there isn't a question about whether adequate project level data was received. The QRA supplied the Commonwealth with regular project lists which satisfied data requirements, and therefore achieved value for money."

Senator Ludwig said another National Partnership Agreement had been struck with Queensland to deal with the latest natural disasters to hit the state "to ensure that we will continue to have strong oversight and value for money".

Community Recovery and Resilience Minister David Crisafulli said Queensland has been "absolutely belted from pillar to post by tornados and floods" and the government's first priority was to assist communities to recover.

"My criticism of the former government was based more on how they conducted the recovery effort, not on how they failed to fill out piles of paperwork and reports for Canberra," Mr Crisafulli said.

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