Volume Ten 2010 focus on Education and Communities

The Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat, today released his Volume Ten Report to Parliament for 2010. The report includes his review on the Building the Education Revolution and outcomes of his financial audits on NSW Government agencies for Education and Communities 2009-10.

Building the Education Revolution - on time, higher costs and community preferences sometimes not met (pgs 49, 55, 68, 79 & 89 to 98) 

“Whilst the Department of Education appears to have achieved its key objective of rapidly constructing school facilities, costs were higher than business as usual and the preferences of local communities were not always met”, said Mr Achterstraat.

Of the 2,364 Primary Schools for the 21st Century projects in New South Wales, 1,453 were complete at 19 November 2010.

In 1,270 cases the Department accepted managing contractors estimated costs that were in total $188 million higher than their own.

“Irrespective of time constraints, the Department should not approve estimated construction costs that are substantially higher than the Department’s own assessments. They should investigate significant variances, negotiate with the managing contractors and set the estimated costs based on their own assessment, not the managing contractor’s assessment”, said Mr Achterstraat.

“In the nine schools I closely examined, eight had costs of between two and forty per cent higher than my independent quantity surveyor’s estimate”, he said.

“Of the 68 schools I surveyed, ninety per cent agreed that the project meet their medium term future needs, but only 40 per cent thought the project was value for money”, he added.

The short timeframe and the Department’s rigid application of the Australian Government’s guidelines lead to some community concern about what was provided to their local schools.

“The Department strictly adhered to the Australian Government’s guidelines and their own standards which meant some schools got a library when they wanted a hall”, said Mr Achterstraat. “I understand that other non-government education authorities sought and received some discretion allowing them to better meet the needs of their school communities”, he added.

Significant challenge with “soon to retire” teachers (pgs 112 & 125)

The Department of Education and the NSW Technical and Further Education Commission continue to face the loss of large numbers of retiring teachers and their associated skills. Forty-five per cent of school teachers and 65 per cent of the Commission’s permanent teachers are aged 50 years and over.

School attendance steady (pg 107)

Around 92 per cent of students are present at school on an average school day. The highest attendance was 94 per cent in the Northern Sydney region, and lowest was 89 per cent in the New England region.

Higher visitor numbers at Museum (pg 11)

Visits to the Australian Museum are up by 16 per cent, increasing by 53,000 to 375,000 in 2009-10.

Sydney Opera House – now worth $2 billion (pg 38)

The value of the Sydney Opera House land and buildings increased by $314 million to just over $2 billion in 2009-10.

Further information

Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, on 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664