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Actions for Design and administration of the WestInvest program

Design and administration of the WestInvest program

Premier and Cabinet
Treasury
Infrastructure
Management and administration

What this report is about

WestInvest is a $5 billion funding program announced in September 2021 to provide ‘local infrastructure to help communities hit hard by COVID-19’ in 15 local government areas (LGAs) selected by the government. It was divided into three parts: $3 billion for NSW government agency projects; $1.6 billion for competitive grants to councils and community groups; and $400 million for non-competitive grants to councils.

Following the change of government at the 2023 election, the program was renamed the Western Sydney Infrastructure Grants Program. Funding decisions made for the community and local government grants were retained, but multiple funding decisions for the NSW government projects were changed.

The audit objective was to assess the integrity of the design and implementation of the program and the award of program funding.

Findings

The design of the program lacked integrity because it was not informed by robust research or analysis to justify the commitment of public money to a program of this scale.

The then government did not have sufficient regard to the implications for the state's credit rating. A risk to the credit rating arose because the government may have been perceived to be using proceeds from major asset sales to fund new expenditure, rather than pay down its debt.

Decisions about program design were made by the then Treasurer's office without consultation with affected communities. The rationale for these decisions was not documented or made public.

For the NSW government projects, funding allocations did not follow advice from departments. Many funded projects did not meet the objectives of the program.

The two other rounds of the program were administered effectively, except for some gaps in documentation and quality assurance. The program guidelines did not require an equitable or needs-based distribution of funding across LGAs and there was a significant imbalance in funding between the 15 LGAs.

Recommendations

Our recommendations for the administration of future funding programs included:

  • considering whether competitive grants are the best way to achieve the program's purpose
  • completing program design and guidelines before announcements
  • ensuring adequate quality assurance.

We also recommended that when providing advice for submissions by Ministers to Cabinet, agencies should ensure that departmental advice is clearly identified and is distinct from other advice or political considerations. 

 

WestInvest is a $5 billion funding program that was announced in September 2021. The program was established with the stated aim of building ‘new and improved facilities and local infrastructure to help communities hit hard by COVID-19’.

WestInvest was divided into three funding streams:

  • $3 billion NSW government projects round open to NSW government agencies
  • $1.6 billion community projects competitive round administered as a competitive grant program that was open to local councils, non-government organisations, Local Aboriginal Land Councils, and educational institutions in the 15 eligible LGAs
  • $400 million local government projects round administered as a non-competitive grant round only open to the 15 eligible councils, with each council receiving a pre-determined share of the $400 million.

The WestInvest program was administered by NSW Treasury and the Premier's Department (previously the Department of Premier and Cabinet). Decisions about funding allocations were made by the former Treasurer in his role as the statutory decision-maker and announced by the former government in the lead up to the March 2023 NSW State election, but no funding was paid prior to the election.

Following the change of government, the funding decisions for the community projects competitive round and local government projects round were confirmed and negotiation of funding deeds commenced. The current government reviewed the decisions for the NSW government projects round and made changes to multiple decisions as part of the 2023–24 NSW Budget process. The current government has also changed the name of the program to the Western Sydney Infrastructure Grants Program.

The objective of the audit was to assess the integrity of the design and administration of the WestInvest program. This included assessing the processes used in the design and implementation of the program and award of funding.

The audit did not re-assess the merits of individual projects that were submitted for funding consideration and did not examine the implementation of projects that were allocated funding.

Decisions about the objectives and focus areas for the program were made without advice or analysis from the agencies that administered the program

The WestInvest program involved the commitment of $5 billion as a stimulus measure linked to economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there was no business case or other economic analysis conducted to support consideration of the potential benefits and costs of the program. Media releases and the public guidelines for WestInvest stated that western Sydney was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic more severely than other parts of Sydney and regional NSW. These assertions were not supported by evidence or analysis.

Evidence from NSW Treasury provided for this audit indicates that it was asked to prepare the initial proposal for the WestInvest program within a very short timeframe. This limited its ability to conduct research, analysis and consultation that could have informed the development of the program. This is particularly important for the integrity of decisions involving large-scale spending. Staff from NSW Treasury and the Premier's Department advised the audit team that the areas of focus for WestInvest were decided by Ministers and their staff without advice from the audited agencies. There is no documented analysis justifying the decision to focus the program on community infrastructure, or the six ‘areas of focus’ that were selected. The Premier's Department commissioned research from Western Sydney University after the areas of focus for the program had been decided. This did not inform decisions about the program focus but aimed to provide baseline information about community infrastructure in the 15 eligible LGAs which could be used in program evaluation.

The rationale for making 15 LGAs eligible for the program was not clear

It is not clear how the government decided which LGAs would be eligible for WestInvest funding. Public communication about the program referred to the western Sydney region and commented on areas that had been ‘hit hard’ by the COVID-19 pandemic. The specific factors that were used to decide which LGAs were eligible were not explained publicly or documented.

In the 2019–20 NSW Budget papers, "western Sydney" was defined as 12 LGAs. All of these were included as eligible for the WestInvest program. The additional three LGAs that were made eligible for the WestInvest program (Burwood, Canterbury-Bankstown, and Strathfield) were not within the NSW Budget papers definition but were designated "areas of concern" during the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant they were subject to more restrictions than other LGAs at certain points.

Georges River and Bayside LGAs both made public statements that drew attention to the fact that they were not made eligible for the WestInvest program despite being designated areas of concern. Several of the 15 LGAs that were made eligible for WestInvest had not been designated areas of concern during the pandemic, including Penrith, The Hills, and Blue Mountains. 

There was no consultation with eligible councils or other key stakeholders before the program design was decide

The program design had not been subject to consultation with councils or other relevant organisations in western Sydney. This meant that the views of eligible councils and community organisations on strategic priorities in their respective communities were not considered before decisions on program design were made.

Staff from some councils interviewed by the audit team indicated that while funding for community infrastructure is welcome, some councils had other priority areas for infrastructure development that were at least as high as new community infrastructure. As independent entities, each council has its own strategic planning processes to identify and plan for infrastructure projects and other areas of need. These were not considered in the design of the WestInvest program.

Staff at several councils we spoke to highlighted delivery risks to the projects for which they had been allocated funding. These included:

  • the short timetable set by the then government (considering the amount of funding available and the requirements for applications) meant that full project development and assurance processes were not completed for most applications when they were submitted
  • difficulty complying with the government’s administrative and assurance requirements for funding recipients, such as detailed planning and reporting.

When early planning for WestInvest was being done, both NSW Treasury and the Premier's Department identified the risk that applicants may not be able to deliver funded projects on time or within budget. The absence of consultation, research and analysis before the program design was finalised meant that these factors were not considered before the government had committed to the program. We did not see evidence that the then government had considered the cumulative impact of an additional $5 billion in infrastructure projects on the costs of materials and skilled labour concentrated in the eligible LGAs.

The Premier's Department conducted an online survey (WestInvest 'Have Your Say'), between 23 February 2022 and 31 March 2022. This was open to the public and asked questions about which of the six ‘areas of focus’ were most important to them and what type of community infrastructure projects they would like to see. This found higher levels of community support for two of the six areas (community infrastructure and green and open space).

On 18 April 2022, the Premier's Department released a summary report on the findings of the WestInvest ‘Have Your Say’ Survey. The Premier's Department noted that the survey was for consultation purposes only and did not form part of the application process for the WestInvest program. The Premier's Department stated in its summary report that the survey results 'will feed into the assessment process across the WestInvest Program'.

However, the Premier's Department staff interviewed by the audit team told us that the survey results did not play any formal role in the assessment process or funding recommendations for projects. The survey did not provide data that could be used to inform assessment decisions because:

  • responses could be submitted by any member of the public who accessed the survey, not just those living in the LGAs that were eligible for the program, so the data could not be taken as representative of the views of the residents of eligible LGAs
  • many survey responses were ruled ineligible as they were deemed to be associated with a community campaign that related to projects outside the focus areas of WestInvest.

The government did not have sufficient regard to risks to the State's credit rating when establishing the WestInvest program

The NSW Government has a policy of maintaining a AAA credit rating for the State of New South Wales. This is codified in the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012. The NSW Government did not have sufficient regard to the implications and risks of committing $5 billion of funding to the WestInvest program to its credit rating. A risk to the State's credit rating arose because the government may have been perceived to be using proceeds from major asset sales to fund new expenditure, rather than paying down State debt.

The $3 billion NSW government projects round was open to NSW government agencies and administration of the round was led by NSW Treasury. Funding allocated through this round was not subject to the NSW Grants Administration Guide. This is because the funding was awarded to NSW government agencies rather than organisations external to government, so it did not meet the definition of a grant program. Projects were submitted by NSW government agencies to NSW Treasury and were assessed against program criteria by staff from NSW Treasury and the Premier's Department. Each project received a score and advice on whether it was suitable for funding or not. The WestInvest steering committee considered these and provided advice to the then Treasurer.

NSW Treasury prepared guidelines for the $3 billion NSW government projects round, but these were not approved by the then Treasurer until after the program assessment had commenced

NSW Treasury prepared guidelines for the NSW government projects round in September 2021. These were submitted to the then Treasurer for approval in December 2021 but were not approved. This meant that the process for assessing applications for NSW government projects was not agreed between government agencies and the then Treasurer, who was the statutory decision-maker of the allocations of funding. NSW Treasury subsequently prepared an assessment plan based on the unapproved guidelines, which set out more details about the process to be used for assessing applications for the NSW government projects round. The program guidelines were not published, which meant there was no public information about the process for assessing the largest component of the WestInvest program.

In May 2022, the then Treasurer’s Office requested that NSW Treasury make changes to the unapproved guidelines so that projects that delivered 'business as usual' state government infrastructure such as schools, roads, and health infrastructure were no longer considered ineligible for the program. These revised guidelines were approved in June 2022, but were not published. The changes were not consistent with the initial purpose of the WestInvest program which was to fund ‘transformational’ community infrastructure.

The funding advice from the WestInvest steering committee was not followed by the then Treasurer and the justifications for the funding allocation decisions were not documented

One-third of the projects that were allocated funding (9 out of 27) had been assessed by the WestInvest steering committee as having low or moderate merit. These projects were allocated combined funding of $1.1 billion. Reasons that the steering committee gave for assessing these projects as not suitable for funding through the WestInvest program included the absence of completed business cases, incomplete project development, and poor alignment to the objectives and criteria for the WestInvest program as outlined in the original program guidelines.

Staff from NSW Treasury and the Premier's Department put considerable resources into preparing guidelines and assessing and providing advice on the merits and eligibility of applications against these guidelines, but in most cases the advice was not followed by the then Treasurer. There was no documentation of reasons for the departures from steering committee advice. The NSW government projects round was not subject to the NSW Grants Administration Guide, so the requirement under those guidelines for documenting reasons for departures from advice on funding decisions did not apply. However, when the WestInvest program was established, it was noted that any departures from the funding advice from the steering committee would be documented by the then Treasurer. This applied to the entire WestInvest program. None of the projects that were allocated funding through the NSW government projects round were actually given funding, as only allocations of funding were approved by the then Treasurer.

Most of the funding was allocated to projects that did not align with the purpose of WestInvest or meet the assurance requirements of the program

Of the 27 projects that were allocated funding (Exhibit 3), 12 were from the Department of Education and seven from Transport for NSW. This resulted in over $2 billion, or 69% of the funding available through the NSW government projects round, being allocated to state school and road projects. Most of these projects were not aligned with any of the six focus areas of the WestInvest program. In addition, these projects were examples of ‘business as usual’ activities of NSW government agencies that did not clearly align with the initial purpose of the program to deliver transformational community infrastructure that would improve liveability in the 15 eligible LGAs.

Exhibit 3: NSW government projects round funding allocations announced prior to the 2023 NSW State election

State schools

  • Upgrade nine public schools across western Sydney ($478 million)
  • Improve cooling in 84 public schools across western Sydney ($131 million
  • Westmead Education Campus ($308 million)
  • Box Hill (Terry Road) new school ($112 million)

State roads

  • M7 Motorway connections - Townson Road and Richmond Road ($285 million)
  • Elizabeth Drive upgrade ($200 million)
  • Henry Lawson Drive stage 1B ($200 million)
  • Richmond Road Marsden Park ($100 million)
  • Garfield Road east ($100 million)
  • Pitt Town bypass ($100 million)
  • Londonderry Road flood evacuation improvements ($15 million)

Health

  • Integrated community health hubs in Liverpool and Glenfield ($243 million)

Open spaces

  • Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan masterplan stage 1 ($204 million)
  • Salt Pan Creek parklands ($86 million)
  • Fernhill Estate transformation ($65 million)
  • The People's Loop Parramatta ($56 million)
  • Penrith Lakes parkland ($15 million)

Arts and community infrastructure

  • Transforming Parramatta's Roxy Theatre ($122 million)
  • Western Sydney Stadium precinct community-based asset ($111 million).

Source: NSW Treasury documents.

Conditions were attached to the approval of funding allocations for 21 of the 27 projects. Most of these conditions related to the completion of a business case and other project assurance requirements, which were required under the program guidelines.

Projects approved through the WestInvest program were to receive funding from the Community Services and Facilities Fund (CSFF), which is a legislative fund created under the NSW Generations Funds Act 2018 (the Act). The Act states that the purpose of the CSFF is to provide funding for ‘cost-effective facilities and services’ (s.12(1)). The absence of business cases and other assurance requirements from most of the projects approved created the risk of legislative non-compliance, as many of the projects that had been allocated funding could not clearly demonstrate that they would be cost-effective.

NSW Treasury and the Premier's Department’s assessment of the first group of projects submitted for the NSW government projects round indicated that agencies applying for funding did not understand the purpose or requirements of the program. NSW Treasury and the Premier's Department received 153 applications after the first call for proposals. Most did not align with the stated purpose of WestInvest or meet the assurance requirements that had been set for the program. For example:

  • 90 project proposals (59% of those submitted) were assessed as ineligible. Thirty-five of the 90 did not include any infrastructure, which was the main purpose of the WestInvest program. The other 55 proposed infrastructure projects were not consistent with any of six areas of focus for the program.
  • 118 proposals (77% of proposals submitted) did not have a business case, which was a requirement of the WestInvest program guidelines.

As the first request for project proposals did not generate enough suitable applications, the then Treasurer made a second request to NSW government agencies in August 2022 seeking additional project proposals. This occurred after the guidelines for the NSW government projects round had been broadened to allow more projects to be considered for funding (discussed above).

Multiple state school projects were allocated funding after being assessed by the WestInvest steering committee as ineligible or unsuitable for funding

The Westmead Education Campus project, valued at $308 million, was rated as ineligible by NSW Treasury and the Premier's Department because it did not address any of the six specified focus areas for the WestInvest program. This meant it did not go through a full assessment against the program criteria and was not submitted to the then Treasurer for funding consideration.

The project was later re-submitted and the then Treasurer subsequently approved it for funding allocation. This occurred after the guidelines for the NSW government projects round had been broadened (discussed above). NSW Treasury's advice on this submission noted that the project had not been fully developed, with key decisions about the delivery model not made, and it did not have a final business case.

The Box Hill (Terry Road) new school project, valued at $112 million was rated as ‘moderate – not suitable for funding consideration at this time’ by the WestInvest steering committee. It was subsequently approved for funding by the then Treasurer.

Nine school upgrade projects with a total value of $478 million were allocated funding by the then Treasurer. Each of these had been assessed as ineligible by NSW Treasury and the Premier's Department against the original program guidelines because they did not meet any of the WestInvest focus areas and were not considered 'transformational'. There were a further 14 similar proposals for school upgrades that were also assessed as ineligible but were not allocated funding.

Funding allocations from the WestInvest program were changed after the 2023 NSW State election

Following the change of government at the 2023 NSW state election, most of the funding decisions announced by the former government were changed. The new government had announced during the election campaign that, if elected, it would redirect some WestInvest funding 'to rebuild Western Sydney schools and Western Sydney hospitals'. Eleven of the 27 projects that had been announced by the former government were not funded by the new government. The combined value of these projects was at around $1.5 billion (Exhibit 4). The seven roads projects that had been allocated funding through WestInvest, valued at $1 billion, were also removed from the WestInvest funding allocation but these still received funding from a different source.

Exhibit 4: Projects from the NSW government projects round not funded post-2023 NSW State election

State schools

  • Improve cooling in 84 public schools across western Sydney ($131 million)
  • Westmead Education Campus ($308 million)
  • Box Hill (Terry Road) new school ($112 million)

Health

  • Integrated community health hubs in Liverpool and Glenfield ($243 million)

Open spaces

  • Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan masterplan stage 1 ($204 million)
  • Salt Pan Creek parklands ($86 million)
  • Fernhill Estate transformation ($65 million)
  • The People's Loop Parramatta ($56 million)
  • Penrith Lakes parkland ($15 million)

Arts and community infrastructure

  • Transforming Parramatta's Roxy Theatre ($122 million)
  • Western Sydney Stadium precinct community-based asset ($111 million).

Source: NSW Treasury documents.

The funding was reallocated to 17 projects that the new government had announced as election commitments during the 2023 State election campaign. This comprised ten school infrastructure projects, five health infrastructure projects, and two transport infrastructure projects. All of these projects had a cost of more than $10 million each, which means they are subject to NSW Government business case and gateway assurance requirements. Business cases had been completed for the two transport projects. The other 15 projects did not have business cases.

Exhibit 5: Election commitments funded through WestInvest, post-2023 NSW State election

State schools

  • New primary school near Sydney Olympic Park ($71 million)
  • New high school for Melrose Park ($98 million)
  • Convert Eagle Vale High School into a sports high school ($4 million)
  • Build new high school in Jordan Springs ($132 million)
  • Dundas Public School upgrade ($6 million)
  • New high school for Schofields and Tallawong ($130 million)
  • The Ponds High School upgrade ($15 million)
  • New public high school in Gledswood and Gregory Hills ($118 million)
  • New high school in Leppington/Denham Court ($125 million)
  • Kingswood Public School upgrades ($13 million)

Health

  • Additional beds at Mt Druitt Hospital ($60 million)
  • Additional beds at Blacktown Hospital ($60 million)
  • Expansion of Scope of new Rouse Hill Hospital ($400 million)
  • Canterbury Hospital extension and upgrade ($350 million)
  • Fairfield Hospital extension and upgrade ($350 million)

Transport

  • More accessible, safe and secure train stations ($300 million)
  • Active Transport ($60 million)

Source: NSW Treasury documents.

After these changes, the $3 billion NSW government projects round funding distribution was:

  • Nine school upgrades, valued at $478 million, that had been allocated funding by the former government (see Exhibit 3).
  • 17 new projects, with a total value of around $2.3 billion, that had been announced as election commitments by the new government (Exhibit 5). All of these are state school, health, or transport infrastructure.
  • Three projects that covered administrative costs associated with the WestInvest program, with a total value of around $230 million (not previously announced).

The $1.6 billion community project grants - competitive round was open to local councils, NGOs, Local Aboriginal Land Councils, and educational institutions, across 15 eligible LGAs in western Sydney. Exhibit 6 shows a timeline of key dates for the community project grants - competitive round.

The $400 million local government projects round was administered as a non-competitive grant round that was only open to the 15 eligible councils. Each council was allocated a portion of the $400 million funding via a formula that provided a base allocation and an additional amount based on the population of each LGA. Each council received between $21 million and $35 million.

Applications for funding were submitted to the Premier's Department for assessment. Proposed projects were required to be eligible for the program and be rated as having merit against the published program criteria, which were the same as those for the competitive round. Exhibit 12 shows a timeline of key dates for the Local government projects competitive round.

Appendix one – Responses from audited agencies

Appendix two – About the audit

Appendix three – Performance auditing

© Copyright reserved by the Audit Office of New South Wales. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent of the Audit Office of New South Wales. The Audit Office does not accept responsibility for loss or damage suffered by any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any of this material.

Parliamentary reference - Report number #391 - released 28 February 2024.

 

 

Published

Actions for State Finances 2023

State Finances 2023

Treasury
Whole of Government
Asset valuation
Compliance
Cyber security
Financial reporting
Infrastructure
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Regulation

What this report is about

Results of the audit of the Consolidated State Financial Statements of the New South Wales General Government Sector (GGS) and Total State Sector (TSS) for the year ended 30 June 2023.

Findings

The audit opinion on the 2022–23 Consolidated State Financial Statements was qualified in relation to two issues and included an emphasis of matter.

The first qualification matter is a continuation of the prior year limitation of scope on the audit relating to the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT), a controlled state entity, who continued to deny access to its management, books and records for the purposes of a financial audit. As a result, the Audit Office was unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to support the assets, liabilities, income and expenses relating to CMCT recorded in the TSS and the equity investment recognised in the GGS relating to the net assets of CMCT.

The second qualification matter relates to the limitations on the accuracy and reliability of financial information relating to Statutory Land Managers (SLMs) and Common Trust entities (CTs) controlled by the State and were either exempted from requirements to prepare financial reports, or who were required to submit financial reports and have not done so. The Audit Office was unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to determine the impact on the value of non-land assets and liabilities, income and expenses that should be recognised in the 2022–23 Consolidated State Financial Statements and which have not been recorded in the Consolidated State Financial Statements.

The independent audit opinion also includes an emphasis of matter drawing attention to key decisions made by the NSW Government regarding the future of the Transport Asset Holding Entity of New South Wales (TAHE).

Recommendations

The report includes recommendations for NSW Treasury to address several high-risk findings, including:

  • ensuring accurate and reliable financial information is available to recognise the non-land balances of SLMs and CTs
  • ensuring the CMCT, SLMs and CTs meet their statutory reporting obligations
  • conducting a broader review of the financial reporting exemption framework
  • continued monitoring of TAHE's control over its assets
  • providing timely guidance to the sector relating to legislative or policy changes that impact financial reporting
  • developing an accounting policy for the reimbursement of unsuccessful tender bid cost contributions.

 

Read the PDF report

Published

Actions for Transport 2023

Transport 2023

Transport
Whole of Government
Asset valuation
Compliance
Financial reporting
Information technology
Infrastructure
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Procurement
Risk

What this report is about

Result of the Transport portfolio of agencies' financial statement audits for the year ended 30 June 2023.

The audit found

Unqualified audit opinions were issued for all Transport portfolio agencies.

An 'emphasis of matter' paragraph was included in the Transport Asset Holding Entity of New South Wales' (TAHE) independent auditor's report, which draws attention to management's disclosure regarding proposed changes to TAHE's operating model.

Government's decision to convert TAHE into a non-commercial Public Non-Financial Corporation may impact the future valuation and the control of TAHE's assets.

Transport for NSW's valuation of roads and bridges resulted in a net increase to its asset value by $15.7 billion.

Transport for NSW and Sydney Metro have capitalised over $300 million of tender bid costs paid to unsuccessful tender bidders relating to significant infrastructure projects. Whilst NSW Treasury policy provides clarity on the reimbursement of unsuccessful bidders' costs, clearer guidance on how to account for these costs in agency's financial statements is required.

The key audit issues were

The number of issues reported to management decreased from 53 in 2021–22 to 49 in 2022–23.

High-risk findings include:

  • gaps in how Sydney Metro manages its contractors and how conflicts of interest are recorded and managed
  • future financial reporting implications to account for government's proposed changes to TAHE's future operating model, including asset valuations and control assessments of assets and operations
  • Parramatta Park Trust's tree assets' valuation methodology needs to be addressed.

Recommendations were made to address the identified deficiencies.

This report provides Parliament and other users of the Transport portfolio of agencies’ financial statements with the results of our audits, analysis, conclusions and recommendations in the following areas:

  • financial reporting
  • audit observations.

Financial reporting is an important element of good governance. Confidence and transparency in public sector decision making are enhanced when financial reporting is accurate and timely.

This chapter outlines our audit observations related to the financial reporting of agencies in the Transport portfolio of agencies (the portfolio) for 2023.

Section highlights

  • Unqualified audit opinions were issued on all the portfolio agencies’ 30 June 2023 financial statements.
  • An 'Emphasis of Matter' paragraph was included in the Transport Asset Holding Entity of New South Wales’ (TAHE) Independent Auditor's Report to draw attention to management's disclosure regarding the proposed changes to TAHE's future operating model.
  • The total number of errors (including corrected and uncorrected) in the financial statements increased by 59% compared to the prior year.
  • The recent government's decision to convert TAHE into a non-commercial Public Non-Financial Corporation may impact the future valuation and the control of TAHE’s assets.
  • Transport for NSW needs to further improve its quality assurance processes over comprehensive valuations, in particular, ensuring key inputs used in the valuations are properly supported and verified.
  • Transport for NSW and Sydney Metro capitalised over $300 million of bid costs paid to unsuccessful bidders. NSW Treasury’s Bid Cost Contributions Policy does not contemplate how these costs should be recognised in agency’s financial statements. Transport agencies should work with NSW Treasury to develop an accounting policy for the bid cost contributions to ensure consistent application across the sector.

Appropriate financial controls help ensure the efficient and effective use of resources and administration of agency policies. They are essential for quality and timely decision-making.
This chapter outlines our observations and insights from our financial statement audits of agencies in the Transport portfolio.

Section highlights

  • The 2022–23 audits identified four high risks and 28 moderate risk issues across the portfolio. Thirty-nine per cent of issues were repeat findings.
  • Four high risk findings include:
    • TAHE’s asset valuations (new)
    • TAHE’s control of assets and operations (new)
    • Sydney Metro’s management of contractors and conflicts of interest (new)
    • Parramatta Park Trust’s valuation of trees (repeat).
  • The total number of findings decreased from 53 in 2021–22 to 49 in 2022–23. Many repeat findings related to control weaknesses over the asset valuation, payroll processes, conflicts of interest and information technology user access administration.


Appendix one – Misstatements in financial statements submitted for audit 

Appendix two – Early close procedures

Appendix three – Timeliness of financial reporting 

Appendix four – Financial data 

 

© Copyright reserved by the Audit Office of New South Wales. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent of the Audit Office of New South Wales. The Audit Office does not accept responsibility for loss or damage suffered by any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any of this material.

Published

Actions for Planning and Environment 2023

Planning and Environment 2023

Planning
Environment
Industry
Asset valuation
Compliance
Financial reporting
Information technology
Infrastructure
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Risk
Shared services and collaboration

What this report is about

Results of the Planning and Environment portfolio financial statement audits for the year ended 30 June 2023.

The audit found

Unqualified audit opinions were issued for all completed Planning and Environment portfolio agencies. Seven audits are ongoing.

The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT) did not comply with its obligations under the Government Sector Finance Act 2018 (GSF Act) to prepare and submit financial statements for audit.

The Department of Planning and Environment (the department) has not yet provided their assessment of the financial reporting requirements for the 579 Category 2 Statutory Land Managers (SLMs) for 2022–23.

One-hundred-and-nineteen Commons Trusts are non-compliant with the GSF Act as they have not submitted their financial statements for audit.

We issued unqualified opinions on the Water Administration Ministerial Corporation's 2020–21, 2021–22 and 2022–23 financial statements.

The number of monetary misstatements identified in our audits decreased from 59 in 2021–22 to 51 in 2022–23, however the gross value of misstatements increased.

The key audit issues were

The former Resilience NSW and NSW Reconstruction Authority (the Authority) re-assessed the accounting implications arising from contractual agreements relating to temporary housing assets associated with the Northern Rivers Temporary Homes Program. This resulted in adjustments to recognise the associated assets and liabilities.

We continue to identify significant deficiencies in NSW Crown land information records.

The department has not been effective in addressing the differing practices for the financial reporting of rural firefighting equipment vested to councils under section 119 (2) of the Rural Fires Act 1997.

The number of findings across the portfolio reported to management increased from 132 in 2021–22 to 140 in 2022–23. Thirty per cent of issues were repeated from the prior year.

Seven high-risk issues were identified. These related to the findings outlined above, deficiencies in quality reviews of asset valuations, internal control processes and IT general controls.

The audit recommended

Recommendations were made to the department and portfolio agencies to address these deficiencies.

This report provides Parliament and other users of the Planning and Environment portfolio of agencies’ financial statements with the results of our audits, analysis, conclusions and recommendations in the following areas:

  • financial reporting

  • audit observations.

Financial reporting is an important element of good governance. Confidence and transparency in public sector decision-making are enhanced when financial reporting is accurate and timely.

This chapter outlines our audit observations related to the financial reporting of agencies in the Planning and Environment portfolio of agencies (the portfolio) for 2023.

Section highlights

  • Unqualified audit opinions were issued on all completed 30 June 2023 financial statements audits of portfolio agencies. Seven audits are ongoing.

  • We have been unable to commence audits of the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT). NSW Treasury's position remains that the Catholic CMCT is a controlled entity of the State for financial reporting purposes. This means CMCT is a Government Sector Finance (GSF) agency and is obliged under Section 7.6 of the Government Sector Finance Act 2018 (GSF Act) to prepare financial statements and submit them to the Auditor-General for audit. To date, CMCT has not met its statutory obligations under the GSF Act.

  • The Department of Planning and Environment has not yet provided their assessment against the reporting exemption requirements in the Government Sector Finance Regulation 2018 (GSF Regulation) for the estimated 579 Category 2 Statutory Land Managers (SLMs) or 119 Commons Trusts for 2022–23 and no Category 2 SLM or Commons Trust has submitted its 2022–23

    financial statements for audit. Consequently, the lack of compliance with reporting requirements by these 698 agencies presents a challenge to obtaining reliable financial data for these agencies for the purposes of consolidation to the Total State Sector Accounts.

  • The audits of the Water Administration Ministerial Corporation's (WAMC) financial statements for the years ended 30 June 2021 and 30 June 2022 were completed in June 2023 and unqualified audit opinions issued. The 30 June 2023 audit was completed and an unqualified audit opinion was issued on 12 October 2023.

  • The number of reported corrected misstatements decreased from 46 in 2021–22 to 36, however the gross value of misstatements increased from $73 million in 2021–22 to $491.8 million in 2022–23.

  • Portfolio agencies met the statutory deadline for submitting their 2022–23 early close financial statements and other mandatory procedures.

  • A change to the NSW paid parental leave scheme, effective October 2023, created a new legal obligation that needed to be recognised by impacted government agencies. Impact to the agencies' financial statements were not material.

 

Appropriate financial controls help ensure the efficient and effective use of resources and administration of agency policies. They are essential for quality and timely decision-making.

This chapter outlines our observations and insights from our financial statement audits of agencies in the portfolio.

Section highlights 

  • The number of findings across the portfolio reported to management increased from 132 in 2021–22 to 140 in 2022–23 and 30% were repeat issues (34% in 2021–22).

  • The 2022–23 audits identified seven high-risk and 76 moderate risk issues across the portfolio. Four of the high-risk issues were repeat issues, one was a repeat issue with the risk rating reassessed to high-risk in the current year and two were new findings in 2022–23.

  • The former Resilience NSW and NSW Reconstruction Authority had previously assessed that they did not control the temporary housing assets associated with the administration of the Northern Rivers Temporary Homes Program, under relevant accounting standards. A re-assessment of the agreements was made subsequent to the submission of the Authority’s 2022–23 financial statements for audit, which determined that the Authority was the appropriate NSW Government agency to recognise these assets and associated liabilities not previously recognised by the Authority or the former Resilience NSW.

  • There continues to be significant deficiencies in Crown land records. The department should continue to implement their data strategy and action plan to ensure the Crown land database is complete and accurate.

  • Since 2017, the Audit Office has recommended that the department, through OLG should address the differing practices for the financial reporting of rural firefighting equipment vested to councils under section 119 (2) of the Rural Fires Act 1997. The department has not been effective in resolving this issue. In 2023, twenty-six of 108 completed audits of councils received qualified audit opinions on their 2023 financial statements (43 of 146 completed audits in 2022). Six councils had their qualifications for not recognising vested rural firefighting equipment removed in 2022–23.

 

Appendix one – Misstatements in financial statements submitted for audit

Appendix two – Early close procedures 

Appendix three – Timeliness of financial reporting 

Appendix four – Financial data

 

© Copyright reserved by the Audit Office of New South Wales. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent of the Audit Office of New South Wales. The Audit Office does not accept responsibility for loss or damage suffered by any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any of this material.

Published

Actions for Enterprise, Investment and Trade 2023

Enterprise, Investment and Trade 2023

Finance
Asset valuation
Compliance
Cyber security
Financial reporting
Information technology
Infrastructure
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Procurement
Project management
Regulation
Risk

What this report is about

Results of the Enterprise, Investment and Trade portfolio of financial statement audits for the year ended 30 June 2023.

What we found

Unqualified audit opinions were issued for all completed Enterprise, Investment and Trade portfolio agencies.

An 'other matter' paragraph was included in the Jobs for NSW Fund's 30 June 2022 independent auditor's report to reflect the non-compliance with the Jobs for NSW Act 2015 (the Act). The Act requires the board to consist of seven members that include the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of the Premier's Department, and five ministerial appointments. The board has consisted of two secretaries since 24 May 2019 when the independent members resigned. The remaining five members have not been appointed by the ministers as required by section 5(2) of the Act.

Financial statements were not prepared for the Responsible Gambling Fund, a special deposit account. Financial statements should be prepared unless NSW Treasury releases a Treasurer's Direction under section 7.8 of the GSF Act that will exempt the SDA from financial reporting requirements.

What the key issues were

The number of issues reported to management decreased from 65 in 2021–22 to 44 in 2022–23. Forty-six per cent of issues were repeated from the prior year.

Two high-risk issues were identified across the portfolio. One was a repeat issue where the Jobs for NSW Fund did not comply with legislation. The other high-risk issue was first identified in 2022–23 when the Department for Enterprise, Investment and Trade incorrectly recorded grants that did not meet the requirements of Australian Accounting Standards.

What we recommended

The Department should develop a robust model to ensure it only provides for grants that meet the eligibility criteria.

This report provides Parliament and other users of the Enterprise, Investment and Trade portfolio of agencies’ financial statements with the results of our audits, analysis, conclusions and recommendations in the following areas:

  • financial reporting
  • audit observations.

Financial reporting is an important element of good governance. Confidence and transparency in public sector decision-making are enhanced when financial reporting is accurate and timely.

This chapter outlines our audit observations related to the financial reporting of agencies in the Enterprise, Investment and Trade portfolio of agencies (the portfolio) for 2023.

Section highlights

  • Unqualified audit opinions were issued on all completed portfolio agencies’ 2022–23 financial statements.
  • An ‘other matter’ paragraph was included for the Jobs for NSW Fund’s 30 June 2022 financial report to reflect non-compliance with the Jobs for NSW Act 2015.
  • The Act requires the board to consist of seven members that include the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet (or their nominees) and five ministerial appointments, one of whom is to be appointed as Chair of the board. The board has consisted of the two secretaries since 24 May 2019 when the independent members resigned. The remaining five members have not been appointed by the ministers as required by section 5(2) of the Act.
  • An ‘emphasis of matter’ paragraph was included in the Jobs for NSW Fund’s 30 June 2022 financial report to draw attention to the financial report being prepared for the purpose of fulfilling the Jobs for NSW Fund’s financial reporting responsibilities as requested by the Treasurer’s delegate.
  • The total number of errors (including corrected and uncorrected) in the financial statements increased by 12% compared to the prior year.
  • The Responsible Gambling Fund (Special Deposit Account) did not prepare financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2023. Financial statements should be prepared unless NSW Treasury releases a Treasurer’s Direction under section 7.8 of the GSF Act that will exempt the Fund from financial reporting requirements. 

Appropriate financial controls help ensure the efficient and effective use of resources and administration of agency policies. They are essential for quality and timely decision-making.

This chapter outlines our observations and insights from our financial statement audits of agencies in the Enterprise, Investment and Trade portfolio.

Section highlights

  • The audits identified two high-risk and 20 moderate risk issues across the portfolio. Of these, one was a high-risk repeat issue and ten were moderate-risk repeat issues.
  • One of the high-risk matters related to the Jobs for NSW Fund audit for the year ended 30 June 2022.
  • The other high-risk matter related to overstating grants relating to the Jobs Plus Program as the criteria to pay the grant was not met at 30 June 2023.
  • The total number of findings decreased from 65 to 44 with 2022–23 findings mainly related to deficiencies in accounting for property, plant and equipment and agencies having outdated policies. 

Appendix one – Misstatements in financial statements submitted for audit

Appendix two – Early close procedures

Appendix three – Timeliness of financial reporting

Appendix four – Financial data

 

© Copyright reserved by the Audit Office of New South Wales. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent of the Audit Office of New South Wales. The Audit Office does not accept responsibility for loss or damage suffered by any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any of this material.

Published

Actions for Regional NSW 2023

Regional NSW 2023

Industry
Environment
Planning
Whole of Government
Asset valuation
Compliance
Cyber security
Financial reporting
Fraud
Information technology
Infrastructure
Procurement
Regulation
Risk
Service delivery
Shared services and collaboration

What this report is about

Results of the Regional NSW financial statements audits for the year ended 30 June 2023.

What we found

Unqualified audit opinions were issued on all completed audits in the Regional NSW portfolio agencies.

The number of monetary misstatements identified in our audits increased from 28 in 2021–22 to 30 in 2022–23.

What the key issues were

Effective 1 July 2023, staff employed in the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation Division of the Department of Regional NSW transferred to the NSW Reconstruction Authority Staff Agency.

The Regional NSW portfolio agencies were migrated into a new government wide enterprise resourcing planning system.

The total number of audit management letter findings across the portfolio of agencies decreased from 36 to 23.

A high risk matter was raised for the NSW Food Authority to improve the internal controls in the information technology environment including monitoring and managing privilege user access.

What we recommended

Local Land Services should prioritise completing all mandatory early close procedures.

Portfolio agencies should:

  • ensure any changes to employee entitlements are assessed for their potential financial statements impact under the relevant Australian Accounting Standards
  • prioritise and address internal control deficiencies identified in audit management letters.

This report provides Parliament and other users of the Regional NSW portfolio of agencies financial statements with the results of our audits, analysis, conclusions and recommendations in the following areas:

  • financial reporting
  • audit observations.

Financial reporting is an important element of good governance. Confidence and transparency in public sector decision-making are enhanced when financial reporting is accurate and timely.

This chapter outlines our audit observations related to the financial reporting of agencies in the Regional NSW portfolio of agencies (the portfolio) for 2023.

Section highlights

  • Unqualified audit opinions were issued on all completed 30 June 2023 financial statements audits of the portfolio agencies. Two audits are ongoing.
  • The total number of errors (including corrected and uncorrected) in the financial statements increased compared to the prior year.
  • Portfolio agencies met the statutory deadline for submitting their 2022–23 early close financial statements and other mandatory procedures.
  • Portfolio agencies continue to provide financial assistance to communities affected by natural disasters.
  • A change to the NSW paid parental leave scheme, effective October 2023, created a new legal obligation that needed to be recognised by impacted government agencies. Impact to the agencies' financial statements were not material. 

 

Appropriate financial controls help ensure the efficient and effective use of resources and administration of agency policies. They are essential for quality and timely decision-making.

This chapter outlines our observations and insights from our financial statement audits of agencies in the Regional NSW portfolio.

Section highlights

  • The 2022–23 audits identified one high risk and nine moderate risk issues across the portfolio. Of these, one was a moderate risk repeat issue.
  • The total number of findings decreased from 36 to 23 which mainly related to deficiencies in internal controls.
  • The high risk matter relates to the monitoring and managing of privilege user access at NSW Food Authority. 

 

Appendix one – Misstatements in financial statements submitted for audit

Appendix two – Early close procedures

Appendix three – Timeliness of financial reporting

Appendix four – Financial data

 

© Copyright reserved by the Audit Office of New South Wales. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent of the Audit Office of New South Wales. The Audit Office does not accept responsibility for loss or damage suffered by any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any of this material.

Published

Actions for Management of the Critical Communications Enhancement Program

Management of the Critical Communications Enhancement Program

Finance
Health
Justice
Whole of Government
Cyber security
Information technology
Infrastructure
Internal controls and governance
Project management
Risk
Service delivery
Shared services and collaboration

What the report is about

Effective radio communications are crucial to NSW's emergency services organisations.

The Critical Communications Enhancement Program (CCEP) aims to deliver an enhanced public safety radio network to serve the five emergency services organisations (ESOs), as well as a range of other users.

This report assesses whether the NSW Telco Authority is effectively managing the CCEP.

What we found

Where it has already been delivered (about 50% of the state), the enhanced network meets most of the requirements of ESOs.

The CCEP will provide additional infrastructure for public safety radio coverage in existing buildings agreed to with ESOs. However, radio coverage inside buildings constructed after the CCEP concludes will be at risk because building and fire regulations do not address the need for in-building public safety radio coverage.

Around 98% of radios connected to the network can be authenticated to protect against cloning, though only 42% are.

The NSW Telco Authority has not settled with ESOs on how call encryption will be used across the network. This creates the risk that radio interoperability between ESOs will not be maximised.

When completed, the public safety radio network will be the only mission critical radio network for ESOs. It is unclear whether governance for the ongoing running of the network will allow ESOs to participate in future network operational decisions.

The current estimated capital cost for the NSW Telco Authority to complete the CCEP is $1.293 billion. This is up from an estimated cost of $400 million in 2016. The estimated capital cost was not publicly disclosed until $1.325 billion was shown in the 2021–22 NSW Budget Papers.

We estimate that the full cost to government, including costs to the ESOs, of implementing the enhanced network is likely to exceed $2 billion.

We made recommendations about

  • The governance of the enhanced Public Safety Network (PSN) to support agency relationships.
  • The need to finalise a Traffic Mitigation Plan for when the network is congested.
  • The need to provide advice to the NSW Government about the regulatory gap for ensuring adequate network reach in future buildings.
  • The need to clarify how encryption and interoperability will work on the enhanced network.
  • The need for the NSW Telco Authority to comply with its policy on Infrastructure Capacity Reservation.
  • Expediting measures to protect against the risk of cloning by unauthenticated radios.

Public safety radio networks are critical for operational communications among Emergency Services Organisations (ESOs), which in New South Wales include:

  • NSW Ambulance
  • Fire and Rescue NSW
  • NSW Police Force
  • NSW Rural Fire Service
  • NSW State Emergency Service.1

Since 1993, these five ESOs have had access to a NSW Government owned and operated radio communications network, the Public Safety Network (PSN), to support their operational communications. Around 60 to 70 other entities also have access to this network, including other NSW government entities, Commonwealth government entities, local councils, community organisations, and utility companies.

Pursuant to the Government Telecommunications Act 2018 ('the Act'), the New South Wales Government Telecommunications Authority ('NSW Telco Authority') is responsible for the establishment, control, management, maintenance and operation of the PSN.2

Separate to the PSN, all ESOs and other government entities have historically maintained their own radio communication capabilities and networks. Accordingly, the PSN has been a supplementary source of operational radio communications for these entities.

These other radio networks maintained by ESOs and other entities are of varying size and capability, with many ageing and nearing their end-of-life. There was generally little or no interoperability between networks, infrastructure was often co-located and duplicative, and there were large gaps in geographic coverage.

In 2016, the NSW Telco Authority received dedicated NSW Government funding to commence the Critical Communications Enhancement Program (CCEP).

According to NSW Telco Authority's 2021–22 annual report, the CCEP is a transformation program for operational communications for NSW government agencies. The CCEP '…aims to deliver greater access to public safety standard radio communications for the State’s first responders and essential service agencies'. The objective of CCEP is to consolidate the large number of separate radio networks that are owned and operated by various NSW government entities and to enhance the state’s existing shared PSN. The program also aims to deliver increased PSN coverage throughout New South Wales.

The former NSW Government intended that as the enhanced PSN was progressively rolled-out across NSW, ESOs would migrate their radio communications to the enhanced network, before closing and decommissioning their own networks.

About this Audit

This audit assessed whether the CCEP is being effectively managed by the NSW Telco Authority to deliver an enhanced PSN that meets ESOs' requirements for operational communications.

We addressed the audit objective by answering the following two questions:

  1. Have agreed ESO user requirements for the enhanced PSN been met under day-to-day and emergency operational conditions?
  2. Has there been adequate transparency to the NSW Government and other stakeholders regarding whole-of-government costs related to the CCEP?

In answering the first question, we also considered how the agreed user requirements were determined. This included whether they were supported by evidence, whether they were sufficient to meet the intent of the CCEP (including in considering any role for new or alternative technologies), and whether they met any relevant technical standards and compliance obligations (including for cyber security resilience).

While other NSW government agencies and entities use the PSN, we focused on the experience of the five primary ESOs because these will be the largest users of the enhanced PSN.

Both the cost and time required to complete the CCEP roll-out have increased since 2016. While it was originally intended to be completed in 2020, this is now forecast to be 2027. Infrastructure NSW has previously assessed the reasons for the increases in time and cost. A summary of the findings made by Infrastructure NSW is presented in Chapter 1 of this report. Accordingly, as these matters had already been assessed, we did not re-examine them in this performance audit.

The auditee for this performance audit is the NSW Telco Authority, which is a statutory authority within the Department of Customer Service portfolio.

In addition to being responsible for the operation of the PSN, section 5 of the Act also prescribes that the NSW Telco Authority is:

  • to identify, develop and deliver upgrades and enhancements to the government telecommunications network to improve operational communications for government sector agencies
  • to develop policies, standards and guidelines for operational communications using telecommunications networks.

The NSW Telco Authority Advisory Board is established under section 10 of the Act. The role of the board is to advise the NSW Telco Authority and the minister on any matter relating to the telecommunications requirements of government sector agencies and on any other matter relating to the functions of the Authority. As of 2 June 2023, the responsible minister is the Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government.

The five identified ESOs are critical stakeholders of the CCEP and therefore they were consulted during this audit. However, the ESOs were not auditees for this performance audit.

Conclusion

In areas of New South Wales where the enhanced Public Safety Network has been implemented under the Critical Communications Enhancement Program, the NSW Telco Authority has delivered a radio network that meets most of the agreed requirements of Emergency Services Organisations for routine and emergency operations.
In April 2023, the enhanced Public Safety Network (PSN) was approximately 50% completed. In areas where it is used by Emergency Services Organisations (ESOs), the PSN generally meets agreed user requirements. This is demonstrated through extensive performance monitoring and reporting, which shows that agreed performance standards are generally achieved. Reviews by the NSW Government and the NSW Telco Authority found that the PSN performed effectively during major flood events in 2021 and 2022.

Where it is completed, PSN coverage is generally equal to or better than each ESO's individual pre-existing coverage. The NSW Telco Authority has a dedicated work program to address localised coverage gaps (or 'blackspots') in those areas where coverage has otherwise been substantively delivered. Available call capacity on the network far exceeds demand in everyday use. Any operational issues that may occur with the PSN are transparent to ESOs in real time.

The NSW Telco Authority consulted extensively with ESOs on requirements for the enhanced PSN, with relatively few ESO requirements not being included in the specifications for the enhanced PSN. Lessons from previous events, including the 2019–20 summer bushfires, have informed the design and implementation of the enhanced PSN (such as the need to ensure adequate backup power supply to inaccessible sites). The network is based on the Project 25 technical standards for mission-critical radio communications, which is widely-accepted in the public safety radio community throughout Australia and internationally.

There is no mechanism to ensure adequate radio coverage within new building infrastructure after the CCEP concludes, but the NSW Telco Authority and ESOs have agreed an approach to prioritise existing in-building sites for coverage for the duration of the CCEP.
The extent to which the PSN works within buildings and other built structures (such as railway tunnels) is of crucial importance to ESOs, especially the NSW Police Force, NSW Ambulance, and Fire and Rescue NSW. This is because a large proportion of their operational communications occurs within buildings.

There is no mechanism to ensure the adequacy of future in-building coverage for the PSN in new or refurbished buildings after the CCEP concludes. Planning, building, and fire regulations are silent on this issue. We note there are examples in the United States of how in-building coverage for public safety radio networks can be incorporated into building or fire safety codes.

In regard to existing buildings, it is not possible to know whether a building requires its own in-building PSN infrastructure until nearby outside radio sites, including towers and antennae, have been commissioned into the network. Only then can it be determined whether their radio transmissions are capable of penetrating inside nearby buildings. Accordingly, much of this work for in-building coverage cannot be done until outside radio sites are finished and operating.

In March 2023, the NSW Telco Authority and ESOs agreed on a list of 906 mandatory and 7,086

non-mandatory sites for in-building PSN coverage. Most of these sites will likely be able to receive radio coverage via external antennae and towers, however this cannot be confirmed until those nearby external PSN sites are completed. The parties also agreed on an approach to prioritising those sites where coverage is needed but not provided by antennae and towers. Available funding will likely only extend to ensuring coverage in sites deemed mandatory, which is nonetheless expected to meet the overall benchmark of achieving 'same or better' coverage than what ESOs had previously.

There is a risk that radio interoperability between ESOs will not be maximised because the NSW Telco Authority has not settled with ESOs how encryption will be used across the enhanced PSN.
End-to-end encryption of radio transmissions is a security feature that prevents radio transmissions being intercepted or listened to by people who are not meant to. The ability of the PSN to provide end-to-end encryption of operational communications is of critical importance to the two largest prospective users of the PSN: the NSW Police Force and NSW Ambulance. Given that encryption excludes other parties that do not have the requisite encryption keys, its use creates an obstacle to achieving a key intended benefit of the CCEP, that is a more interoperable PSN, where first responders are better able to communicate with other ESOs.

Further planning and collaboration between PSN participants are necessary to consider how these dual benefits can be achieved, including in what operational circumstances encrypted interoperability is necessary or appropriate.

The capital cost to the NSW Telco Authority of the CCEP, originally estimated at $400 million in 2016, was not made public until the 2021–22 NSW Budget disclosed an estimate of $1.325 billon.
The estimated capital cost to complete all stages of the CCEP increased over time. This increasing cost was progressively disclosed to the NSW Government through Cabinet processes between 2015–16 and 2021–22.

In 2016, the full capital cost to the NSW Telco Authority of completing the CCEP was estimated to be $400 million. This estimated cost was not publicly disclosed, nor were subsequent increases, until the cost of $1.325 billion was publicly disclosed in the 2021–22 NSW Budget (revised down in the 2022–23 NSW Budget to $1.293 billion).

There has been no transparency about the whole-of-government cost of implementing the enhanced PSN through the CCEP.
In addition to the capital costs incurred directly by the NSW Telco Authority for the CCEP, ESOs have incurred costs to maintain their own networks due to the delay in implementing the CCEP. The ESOs will continue to incur these costs until they are able to fully migrate to the enhanced PSN, which is expected to be in 2027. These costs have not been tracked or reported as part of transparently accounting for the whole-of-government cost of the enhanced PSN. This is despite Infrastructure NSW in 2019 recommending to the NSW Telco Authority that it conduct a stocktake of such costs so that a whole-of-government cost impact is available to the NSW Government.

1 The definition of 'emergency services organisation' is set out in the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW). In addition to the five ESOs discussed in this report, the definition also includes: Surf Life Saving New South Wales; New South Wales Volunteer Rescue Association Inc; Volunteer Marine Rescue NSW; an agency that manages or controls an accredited rescue unit; and a non-government agency that is prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this definition.
2 Section 15(1) of the Government Telecommunications Act 2018 (NSW).

The NSW Telco Authority established and tracked its own costs for the CCEP

Over the course of the program from 2016, the NSW Telco Authority prepared a series of business cases and program reviews that estimated its cost of implementing the program in full, including those shown in Exhibit 6 below.

Exhibit 6: Estimated costs to fully implement the CCEP
Source Capital cost ($ million) Operating cost
($ million)
Completion date
March 2016 business case 400 37.3 2020
November 2017 internal review 476.7 41.7 2022
March 2020 business case 950–1,050 -- 2025
October 2020 business case 1,263.1 56.1 2026

Source: CCEP business cases as identified.

In response to the 2016 CCEP business case, the then NSW Government approved the NSW Telco Authority implementing the CCEP in full, with funding provided in stages. The NSW Telco Authority tracked its costs against approved funding, with monthly reports provided to the multi-agency Program Steering Committee

Throughout the program, the NSW Government was informed of increasing costs being incurred by the NSW Telco Authority for the CCEP

The various business cases, program updates, and program reviews prepared by the NSW Telco Authority were provided to the NSW Government through the required Cabinet process when seeking approval for the program proceeding and requests for both capital and operational funding. These provided clear indication of the changing overall cost of the CCEP to the NSW Telco Authority, as well as the delays that were being experienced.

There was no transparency to the Parliament and community about changes in the capital cost of the CCEP until the 2021–22 NSW Budget

As the business cases for the CCEP were not publicly available, the only sources of information about capital cost were NSW Budget papers and media releases. The information provided in the annual Budget papers prior to the 2021–22 NSW Budget provided no visibility of the estimated full capital cost to complete all stages of the CCEP. As shown in Exhibit 7 below, this information was fragmented and complex.

Media releases about the progress of the CCEP did not provide the estimated total cost to the NSW Telco Authority of $1.325 billion to complete all stages of the CCEP until June 2021. Prior to this date, media releases only provided funding for the initial stages of the program or for the stages subject to a funding announcement.

Even during the September 2019 and March 2020 Parliamentary Estimate Committee hearings where the costings and delays to the CCEP were raised, the estimated full cost of the CCEP was not revealed.

Exhibit 7: CCEP funding in NSW Budget papers from 2015–16 to 2022–23
Financial year Type of major work Description of expenditure Forecast estimate to complete ($ million) Estimated duration
2015–16 New work Infrastructure Rationalisation Program: Planning and Pilot 18.3 2015–16
2016–17 Work in progress CCEP Planning and Pilot 18.3 2015–17
New work CCEP 45 2016–17
2017–18 New work CCEP 190.75 2017–21
2018–19 Work in progress CCEP North Coast and State-wide Detailed Design 190.75 2017–21
New work CCEP Greater Metropolitan Area 236 2018–22
2019–20 Work in progress CCEP 426.9 2018–22
2020–21 Work in progress CCEP 664.8 2018–22
2021–22 Work in progress CCEP 1,325 2018–26
2022–23 Work in progress CCEP 1,292.8 2018–26

Source: NSW Treasury, Annual State Budget Papers.

The original business case for the CCEP included estimated ESO costs, though these costs were not tracked throughout the program

Estimates for ESO costs for operating and maintaining their own radio networks over the four years from 2016–17 were included in the original March 2016 business case. They included $75.2 million for capital expenditure and $95 million for one-off operating costs. These costs, as well as costs incurred by ESOs due to the delay in the program, were not subsequently tracked by the NSW Telco Authority.

In January 2017, Infrastructure NSW reviewed the CCEP business case of March 2016. In this review, Infrastructure NSW recommended that the NSW Telco Authority identify combined and apportioned costs and cashflow for all ESOs over the CCEP funding period reflecting all associated costs to deliver the CCEP. These to include additional incidental capital costs accruing to ESOs, transition and migration to the new network and the cost (capital and operational) of maintaining existing networks. This recommendation was implemented in the November 2017 program review, with ESO capital costs estimated as $183 million.

In 2019, Infrastructure NSW conducted a Deep Dive Review on the progress of the CCEP. In this review, Infrastructure NSW made what it described as a 'critical recommendation' that the NSW Telco Authority:

…coordinate a stocktake of the costs of operational bridging solutions implemented by PSAs [ESOs] as a result of the 18-month delay, so that a whole-of-government cost impact is available to the NSW Government.  

It should be noted that the delay to CCEP completion now is seven years and that further ‘operational bridging solutions’ have been needed by the ESOs.

'Stay Safe and Keep Operational' costs incurred by ESOs will be significantly higher than originally estimated

Stay Safe and Keep Operational (SSKO) funding was established to provide funding to ESOs to maintain their legacy networks while the CCEP was refreshing and enhancing the PSN. This recognised that much of the network infrastructure relied on by ESOs had reached – or was reaching – obsolescence and would either require extensive maintenance or replacement before the PSN was available for ESOs to migrate to it. ESOs may apply to NSW Treasury for SSKO funding, with their specific proposals being reviewed (and endorsed, where appropriate) by the NSW Telco Authority. Accordingly, SSKO expenditure does not fall within the CCEP budget allocation.

As shown in the table below, extracted from the March 2016 CCEP business case, the total expected cost for SSKO purposes over the course of the CCEP was originally $40 million, assuming the enhanced PSN would be fully available by 2020.

Exhibit 8: Stay Safe and Keep Operational forecast costs, 2017 to 2020
Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 Total
SSKO forecast ($ million) 12.5 15 10 2.5 40

Source: March 2016 CCEP business case.

In October 2022, the expected completion date for the CCEP was re-baselined to August 2027. Accordingly, ESOs will be required to continue to maintain their radio networks using legacy equipment for seven years longer than the original 2020 forecast. This will likely become progressively more expensive and require additional SSKO funding. For example, NSW Telco Authority endorsed SSKO bids for 2022–23 exceeded $35 million for that year alone.

Compared to the original forecast made in the March 2016 CCEP business case of $40 million, we found ESOs had estimated SSKO spending to 2027 will be $292.5 million.

A refresh of paging network used by ESOs and the decommissioning of redundant sites were both removed from the original 2016 scope of the CCEP

Paging

A paging network is considered an important user requirement by the Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service, and NSW State Emergency Service. The 2016 CCEP business case included a paging network refresh within the program scope of works. This was reiterated in the November 2017 internal review of the program. These documents did not estimate a cost for this refresh. The March 2020 and October 2020 business cases excluded paging from the program scope. The audit is unable to identify when, why or by whom the decision was made to remove paging from the program scope, something that was also not well communicated to the affected ESOs.

In 2021, after representations from the affected ESOs, the NSW Telco Authority prepared a separate business case for a refresh of the paging network at an estimated capital cost of $60.31 million. This program was subsequently approved by the NSW Government and included in the 2022–23 NSW Budget.

In determining an estimated full whole-of-government cost of delivering the enhanced PSN, we have included the budgeted cost of the paging network refresh on the basis that:

  • it was expressly included in the original approved March 2016 business case
  • the capability is deemed essential to the needs of three ESOs.

Decommissioning costs

The 2016 CCEP business case included cost estimates for decommissioning surplus sites (whether ‘old’ GRN sites or sites belonging to ESOs’ own networks). These estimates were provided for both the NSW Telco Authority ($38 million) and for the ESOs ($55 million). However, while these estimates were described, they were not included as part of the NSW Telco Authority's estimated capital cost ($400 million) or (more relevantly) operating cost ($37.3 million) for the CCEP. This is despite decommissioning being included as one of eight planned activities for the rollout of the program.

In the October 2020 business case, an estimate of $201 million was included for decommissioning agency networks based on a model whereby:

  • funding would be coordinated by the NSW Telco Authority
  • scheduling and reporting through an inter-agency working group and
  • where appropriate, agencies would be appointed as the most appropriate decommissioning party.

This estimated cost is not included in the CCEP budget.

In determining an estimated full whole-of-government cost of the enhanced PSN, we have included the estimated cost of decommissioning on the basis that:

  • decommissioning was included in the 2016 CCEP business case as one of eight 'planned activities for the rollout of the program'
  • effective decommissioning of surplus sites and equipment (including as described in the business case as incorporating asset decommissioning, asset re-use, and site make-good) is an inherent part of the program management for an enhanced PSN
  • costs incurred in decommissioning are entirely a consequence of the CCEP program.

The estimated minimum cost of building an enhanced PSN consistent with the original proposal is over $2 billion

We have derived two estimated minimum whole-of-government costs for delivering an enhanced PSN. These are:

  • $2.04 billion when calculated from NSW Telco Authority data – shown as estimate A in Exhibit 9 below.
  • $2.26 billion when calculated from ESO supplied data – shown as estimate B in Exhibit 9.

Both totals include:

  • budgeted amounts for both CCEP capital expenditure ($1,292.8 million) and operating expenditure ($139 million)
  • the NSW Telco Authority's 2020 estimated cost for decommissioning ($201 million)
  • the NSW Telco Authority's approved funding for paging refresh ($60.3 million).

The two estimated totals primarily vary around the capital expenditure of ESOs (particularly SSKO funding). To determine these costs, we used ESO provided actual SSKO costs to date, as well as their estimates for maintaining their legacy radio networks through to 2027.

The equivalent cost estimates from the NSW Telco Authority were sourced from the November 2017 internal review and the October 2020 business case for CCEP. It should be noted that the amounts for both estimates are not audited, or verified, but do provide an indication of how whole-of-government costs have grown over the course of the program.

The increase in and reasons for the increase in total CCEP costs (capital and one-off operating) incurred or forecast by the NSW Telco Authority (from $437.3 million in 2016 to $1,431.8 million in 2022) have been provided to the NSW Government through various business cases and reviews prepared by the NSW Telco Authority, as well as by reviews conducted by Infrastructure NSW as part of its project assurance responsibilities.

However, the growth in ESO costs and other consequential costs, such as paging and decommissioning, from around $263 million in the 2016 CCEP business case to between $600 million and $800 million, has to a large degree remained invisible and unexplained to the NSW Government and other stakeholders

Exhibit 9: Estimated whole-of-government costs of the enhanced PSN
  Estimated whole-of-government cost, over time
Cost type 20161 20172 20203 2023–Estimate A4 2023–Estimate B5
$ million $ million $ million $ million $ million
CCEP capital expenditure 400a 476.7b 1,263.1c 1,292.8d 1,292.8d
CCEP operating expenditure 37.3a 41.7b 41.5e 139d 139d
CCEP total 437.3 518.4 1,304.6 1,431.8 1,431.8
ESO capital expenditure 75.2a,f 183b,e 75.4e 258.4g 292.5
ESO one-off operating expenditure 93a n.a.l 86.5e 86.5h 273
ESO total 168.2 183 161.9 344.9 565.5
Paging n.a.i n.a.i n.a.j 60.3k 60.3k
Decommissioning 93 n.a.l 201.0 201h 201
Paging and decommissioning total 93 n.a. 201 261.3 261.3
Whole-of-government total 698.5 701.4 1,667.5 2,038 2,258.6

Notes:
  1. Financial year 2016 to Financial year 2020.
  2. Financial year 2016 to Financial year 2021.
  3. Financial year 2016 to Financial year 2025.
  4. Financial year 2016 to Financial year 2026.
  5. Financial year 2022 to Financial year 2025.
  6. Stay Safe and Keep Operational (SSKO) costs plus terminals costs.
  7. November 2017 internal review and October 2020 Business case.
  8. October 2020 Business case.
  9. Included in CCEP capital expenditure at that time.
  10. By 2020, a refresh of the paging network had been removed from the CCEP scope.
  11. A separate business case for a refresh of the paging network was approved by government in 2022.
  12. Figure not included in the source document.
Sources:
  1. March 2016 CCEP business case.
  2. November 2017 Internal Review conducted by the NSW Telco Authority.
  3. October 2020 CCEP business case.
  4. Derived from business cases, with ESO costs drawn from NSW Telco Authority data.
  5. Derived from business cases, with ESO costs based on data provided to the Audit Office of New South Wales by each of the five ESOs.

Appendix one – Response from agency

Appendix two – Trunked public safety radio networks

Appendix three – About the audit

Appendix four – Performance auditing

 

 

© Copyright reserved by the Audit Office of New South Wales. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent of the Audit Office of New South Wales. The Audit Office does not accept responsibility for loss or damage suffered by any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any of this material.

 

Parliamentary reference - Report number #383 - released 23 June 2023

 

Published

Actions for Natural disasters

Natural disasters

Community Services
Environment
Finance
Local Government
Planning
Transport
Treasury
Whole of Government
Asset valuation
Compliance
Financial reporting
Infrastructure
Regulation
Risk
Service delivery

What this report is about

This report draws together the financial impact of natural disasters on agencies integral to the response and impact of natural disasters during 2021–22.

What we found

Over the 2021–22 financial year $1.4 billion from a budget of $1.9 billion was spent by the NSW Government in response to natural disasters.

Total expenses were less than the budget due to underspend in the following areas:

  • clean-up assistance, including council grants
  • anticipated temporary accommodation support
  • payments relating to the Northern Rivers Business Support scheme for small businesses.

Natural disaster events damaged council assets such as roads, bridges, waste collection centres and other facilities used to provide essential services. Additional staff, contractors and experts were engaged to restore and repair damaged assets and minimise disruption to service delivery.

At 30 June 2022, the estimated damage to council infrastructure assets totalled $349 million.

Over the first half of the 2022–23 financial year, councils experienced further damage to infrastructure assets due to natural disasters. NSW Government spending on natural disasters continued with a further $1.1 billion spent over this period.

Thirty-six councils did not identify climate change or natural disaster as a strategic risk despite 22 of these having at least one natural disaster during 2021–22.

Section highlights

  • $1.4 billion from a budget of $1.9 billion was spent by the NSW Government in response to natural disasters during 2021–22.
  • Budget underspent for temporary housing and small business support as lower than expected need.

Section highlights

  • 83 local council areas were impacted by natural disasters during 2021–22, with 58 being impacted by more than one type of natural disaster.
  • $349 million damage to council infrastructure assets at 30 June 2022.

 

Published

Actions for Planning and managing bushfire equipment

Planning and managing bushfire equipment

Community Services
Justice
Planning
Environment
Local Government
Asset valuation
Compliance
Financial reporting
Information technology
Infrastructure
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Procurement
Regulation
Risk
Shared services and collaboration
Workforce and capability

What the report is about

This audit assessed the effectiveness of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and local councils in planning and managing equipment for bushfire prevention, mitigation, and suppression.

What we found

The RFS has focused its fleet development activity on modernising and improving the safety of its firefighting fleet, and on the purchase of new firefighting aircraft.

There is limited evidence that the RFS has undertaken strategic fleet planning or assessment of the capability of the firefighting fleet to respond to current bushfire events or emerging fire risks.

The RFS does not have an overarching strategy to guide its planning, procurement, or distribution of the firefighting fleet.

The RFS does not have effective oversight of fleet maintenance activity across the State, and is not ensuring the accuracy of District Service Agreements with local councils, where maintenance responsibilities are described.

What we recommended

  1. Develop a fleet enhancement framework and strategy that is informed by an assessment of current fleet capability, and research into appropriate technologies to respond to emerging fire risks.
  2. Develop performance measures to assess the performance and capabilities of the fleet in each RFS District by recording and publicly reporting on fire response times, fire response outcomes, and completions of fire hazard reduction works.
  3. Report annually on fleet allocations to RFS Districts, and identify the ways in which fleet resources align with district-level fire risks.
  4. Develop a strategy to ensure that local brigade volunteers are adequate in numbers and appropriately trained to operate fleet appliances in RFS Districts where they are required.
  5. Establish a fleet maintenance framework to ensure regular update of District Service Agreements with local councils.
  6. Review and improve processes for timely recording of fleet asset movements, locations, and maintenance status.

This audit assessed how effectively the NSW Rural Fire Service (the RFS) plans and manages the firefighting equipment needed to prevent, mitigate, and suppress bushfires. This audit also examined the role of local councils in managing bushfire equipment fleet assets. Local councils have vested legal ownership of the majority of the land-based firefighting fleet, including a range of legislated responsibilities to carry out fleet maintenance and repairs. The RFS has responsibilities to plan and purchase firefighting fleet assets, and ensure they are ready for use in response to fires and other emergencies.

This report describes the challenges in planning and managing the firefighting fleet, including a confusion of roles and responsibilities between the RFS and local councils in relation to managing certain land-based rural firefighting fleet – a point that has been made in our Local Government financial audits over several years. This role confusion is further demonstrated in the responses of the RFS and local councils to this audit report – included at Appendix one.

The lack of cohesion in roles and responsibilities for managing rural firefighting vehicles increases the risk that these firefighting assets are not properly maintained and managed, and introduces a risk that this could affect their readiness to be mobilised when needed.

While the audit findings and recommendations address some of the operational and organisational inefficiencies in relation to rural firefighting equipment management, they do not question the legislative arrangements that govern them. This is a matter for the NSW Government to consider in ensuring the fleet arrangements are fit for purpose, and are clearly understood by the relevant agencies.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (hereafter the RFS) is the lead combat agency for bushfires in New South Wales, and has the power to take charge of bushfire prevention and response operations anywhere in the State. The RFS has responsibilities to prevent, mitigate and suppress bushfires across 95% of the State, predominantly in the non-metropolitan areas of New South Wales. Fire and Rescue NSW is responsible for fire response activity in the cities and large townships that make up the remaining five per cent of the State.

The RFS bushfire fleet is an integral part of the agency's overall bushfire risk management. The RFS also uses this fleet to respond to other emergencies such as floods and storms, motor vehicle accidents, and structural fires. Fleet planning and management is one of a number of activities that is necessary for fire mitigation and suppression.

The Rural Fires Act 1997 (Rural Fires Act) imposes obligations on all landowners and land managers to prevent the occurrence of bushfires and reduce the risk of bushfires from spreading. Local councils have fire prevention responsibilities within their local government areas, principally to reduce fire hazards near council owned or managed assets, and minor roads.

The RFS is led by a Commissioner and is comprised of both paid employees and volunteer rural firefighters. Its functions are prescribed in the Rural Fires Act and related legislation such as the State Emergency Rescue Management Act 1989. The RFS functions are also described in Bush Fire Risk Management Plans, the State Emergency Management Plan, District Service Agreements, and RFS procedural documents. Some of the core responsibilities of the RFS include:

  • preventing, mitigating, and suppressing fires across New South Wales
  • recruiting and managing volunteer firefighters in rural fire brigades
  • purchasing and allocating firefighting fleet assets to local councils
  • establishing District Service Agreements with local councils to give the RFS permissions to use the fleet assets that are vested with local councils
  • carrying out fleet maintenance and repairs when authorised to do so by local councils
  • inspecting the firefighting fleet
  • supporting land managers and private property owners with fire prevention activity.

In order to carry out its legislated firefighting functions, the RFS relies on land-based vehicles, marine craft, and aircraft. These different firefighting appliance types are referred to in this report as the firefighting fleet or fleet assets.

RFS records show that in 2021 there were 6,345 firefighting fleet assets across NSW. Most of the land-based appliances commonly associated with firefighting, such as water pumpers and water tankers, are purchased by the RFS and vested with local councils under the Rural Fires Act. The vesting of firefighting assets with local councils means that the assets are legally owned by the council for which the asset has been purchased. The RFS is able to use the firefighting assets through District Service Agreements with local councils or groups of councils.

In addition to the land-based firefighting fleet, the RFS owns a fleet of aircraft with capabilities for fire mitigation, suppression, and reconnaissance during fire events. The RFS hires a fleet of different appliances to assist with fire prevention and hazard reduction works. These include aircraft for firefighting and fire reconnaissance, and heavy plant equipment such as graders and bulldozers for hazard reduction. Hazard reduction works include the clearance of bush and grasslands around major roads and protected assets, and the creation and maintenance of fire trails and fire corridors to assist with fire response activity.

The RFS is organised into 44 RFS Districts and seven Area Commands. The RFS relies on volunteer firefighters to assist in carrying out most of its firefighting functions. These functions may include the operation of the fleet during fire response activities and training exercises, and the routine inspection of the fleet to ensure it is maintained according to fleet service standards. Volunteer fleet inspections are supervised by the RFS Fire Control Officer.

In 2021 there were approximately 73,000 volunteers located in 1,993 rural fire brigades across the State, making the RFS the largest volunteer fire emergency service in Australia. In addition to brigade volunteers, the RFS has approximately 1,100 salaried staff who occupy leadership and administrative roles at RFS headquarters and in the 44 RFS Districts.

Local councils have legislative responsibilities relating to bushfire planning and management. Some of the core responsibilities of local councils include:

  • establishing and equipping rural fire brigades
  • contributing to the Rural Fire Fighting Fund
  • vested ownership of land-based rural firefighting equipment
  • carrying out firefighting fleet maintenance and repairs
  • conducting bushfire prevention and hazard reduction activity.

The objective of this audit was to assess the effectiveness of the RFS and local councils in planning and managing equipment for bushfire prevention, mitigation, and suppression. From the period of 2017 to 2022 inclusive, we addressed the audit objective by examining whether the NSW RFS and local councils effectively:

  • plan for current and future bushfire fleet requirements
  • manage and maintain the fleet required to prevent, mitigate, and suppress bushfires in NSW.

This audit did not assess:

  • the operational effectiveness of the RFS bushfire response
  • the effectiveness of personal protective equipment and clothing
  • the process of vesting of rural firefighting equipment with local councils
  • activities of any other statutory authorities responsible for managing bushfires in NSW.

As the lead combat agency for the bushfire response in NSW, the RFS has primary responsibility for bushfire prevention, mitigation, and suppression.

Three local councils were selected as case studies for this audit, Hawkesbury City Council, Wagga Wagga City Council and Uralla Shire Council. These case studies highlight the ways in which the RFS and local councils collaborate and communicate in rural fire districts.

Conclusion

The RFS has focused its fleet development activity on modernising and improving the safety of its land-based firefighting fleet, and on the purchase of new firefighting aircraft

The RFS has reduced the average age of the firefighting fleet from approximately 21 years in 2017, to approximately 16 years in 2022. The RFS has also enhanced the aerial fleet with the addition of six new aircraft to add to the existing three aircraft.

Recommendations from inquiries into the 2019–20 bushfires have driven significant levels of fleet improvement activity, mainly focused on the addition of safety features to existing fleet appliances. The RFS has dedicated most of its efforts to purchasing and refurbishing firefighting appliances of the same type and in the same volumes year on year.

However, the RFS is unable to demonstrate how the composition, size, or the locations of the NSW firefighting fleet is linked to current fire prevention, mitigation, and suppression requirements, or future fire risks.

There is limited evidence that the RFS has undertaken strategic fleet planning or assessment of the capability of the firefighting fleet to respond to current bushfire events or emerging fire risks

The RFS has not established a methodology to assess the composition or volumes of the firefighting fleet against fire activity and fire risks in the 44 NSW Rural Fire Districts. The RFS has not developed performance measures or targets to assess or report on fire response times in each of its districts, nor has it developed measures to assess the effectiveness of responses according to fire sizes and fire types. Similarly, the RFS has limited performance measures to assess fire prevention activity, or to assess fuel load reduction works, so it is not possible to assess whether its fleet capabilities are fit for these purposes.

The RFS does not have an overarching strategy to guide its planning, procurement, or distribution of the firefighting fleet

RFS fleet planning and fleet allocations are based on historical fleet sizes and compositions, and distributed to locations where there are appropriately trained brigade volunteers.

The RFS takes an asset protection approach to bushfire prevention and planning that is based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard for Risk Management. This approach requires that the RFS identify assets at risk of fire, and develop treatment plans to protect these assets. However, fleet requirements are not linked to NSW asset protection plans, meaning that fleet is not allocated according to the identified risks in these plans. Further, the RFS does not develop fire prevention plans for areas where there are no identified assets.

The RFS has not conducted future-focused fleet research or planning into technologies that match fleet capabilities to emerging or future fire risks. Since the significant fire events of 2019–2020, the RFS has not changed its approach to planning for, or assessing, the operational capabilities of the fleet. The RFS advises it is scoping a project to match resources to risk, which it plans to commence in 2023.

The RFS does not have effective oversight of fleet maintenance activity across the State, and is not ensuring the accuracy of District Service Agreements where maintenance responsibilities are described

The RFS does not have a framework to ensure that District Service Agreements with local councils are accurate. Almost two thirds of service agreements have not been reviewed in the last ten years, and some do not reflect actual maintenance practices. There is no formalised process to ensure communication occurs between the RFS and local councils for fleet management and maintenance.

RFS fleet management systems at the central level are not integrated with RFS district-level databases to indicate when fleet assets are in workshops being maintained and serviced. The RFS has a new centralised Computer Aided Dispatch System that relies on accurate fleet locations and fleet condition information in order to dispatch vehicles to incidents and fires. A lack of interface between the district-level fleet systems and the centralised RFS fleet dispatch system, may impact on operational responses to bushfires. 

The RFS has not made significant changes to the size or composition of the firefighting fleet in the past five years and does not have an overarching strategy to drive fleet development

Since 2017, the RFS has made minimal changes to its firefighting fleet volumes or vehicle types. The RFS is taking a fleet renewal approach to fleet planning, with a focus on refurbishing and replacing ageing firefighting assets with newer appliances and vehicles of the same classification and type. While the RFS has adopted a fleet renewal approach, driven by its Appliance Replacement Program Guide, it does not have a strategy or framework to guide its future-focused fleet development. There is no document that identifies and analyses bushfire events and risks in NSW, and matches fleet resources and fleet technologies to meet those risks. The RFS does not have fleet performance measures or targets to assess whether the size and composition of the fleet is meeting current or emerging bushfire climate hazards, or fuel load risks across its 44 NSW Fire Districts.

The RFS fleet currently comprises approximately 4,000 frontline, operational firefighting assets such as tankers, pumpers, and air and marine craft, and approximately 2,300 logistical vehicles, such as personnel transport vehicles and specialist support vehicles. Of the land-based firefighting vehicles, the RFS has maintained a steady number of approximately 3,800 tankers and 65 pumpers, year on year, for the past five years. This appliance type is an essential component of the RFS land-based, firefighting fleet with capabilities to suppress and extinguish fires.

Since 2017, most RFS fleet enhancement activity has been directed to upgrades and the modernisation of older fleet assets with new safety features. There is limited evidence of research into new fleet technologies for modern firefighting. The RFS fleet volumes and fleet types have remained relatively static since 2017, with the exception of the aerial firefighting fleet. Since 2017, the RFS has planned for, and purchased, six additional aircraft to add to the existing three aircraft in its permanent fleet.

While the RFS has made minimal changes to its fleet since 2017, in 2016 it reduced the overall number of smaller transport vehicles, by purchasing larger vehicles with increased capacity for personnel transport. The consolidation of logistical and transport vehicles accounts for an attrition in fleet numbers from 7,058 in 2016, to 6,315 in 2017 as shown in Exhibit 2.

The firefighting fleet management system is not always updated in a timely manner due to insufficient RFS personnel with permissions to make changes in the system

The RFS uses a fleet management system known as SAP EAM to record the location and status of firefighting fleet assets. The system holds information about the condition of the firefighting fleet, the home location of each fleet asset, and the maintenance, servicing, and inspection records of all assets. The RFS uses the system for almost all functions related to the firefighting fleet, including the location of vehicles so that they can be dispatched during operational exercises or fire responses.

Staff at RFS Headquarters are responsible for creating and maintaining asset records in the fleet management system. RFS District staff have limited permissions in relation to SAP EAM. They are able to raise work orders for repairs and maintenance, upload evidence to show that work has been done, and close actions in the system.

RFS District staff are not able to enter or update some fleet information in the system, such as the location of vehicles. When an RFS District receives a fleet appliance, it cannot be allocated to a brigade until the location of the asset is accurately recorded in the system. The location of the asset must be updated in the SAP EAM system by staff at RFS Headquarters. District staff can request system support from staff at RFS Headquarters to enter this information. At the time of writing, the position responsible for updating the fleet management system at RFS Headquarters was vacant, and RFS District personnel reported significant wait times in response to their service requests.

The RFS conducts annual audits of SAP EAM system information to ensure data is accurate and complete. RFS staff are currently doing data cleansing work to ensure that fleet allocations are recorded correctly in the system.

Communication between brigades, local councils and the RFS needs improvement to ensure that fleet information is promptly updated in the fleet management system

RFS brigade volunteers do not have access to the fleet management system. When fleet assets are used or moved, volunteers report information about the location and condition of the fleet to RFS District staff using a paper-based form, or by email or phone. Information such as vehicle mileage, engine hours, and defects are all captured by volunteers in a logbook which is scanned and sent to RFS District staff. RFS District staff then enter the relevant information into the fleet management system, or raise a service ticket with RFS Headquarters to enter the information.

Brigade volunteers move fleet assets for a range of reasons, including for fire practice exercises. If volunteers are unable to report the movement of assets to RFS District staff in a timely manner, this can lead to system inaccuracies. Lapses and backlogs in record keeping can occur when RFS staff at district offices or at Headquarters are not available to update records at the times that volunteers report information. A lack of accurate record keeping can potentially impact on RFS operational activities, including fire response activity.

Brigade volunteers notify RFS District staff when fleet appliances are defective, or if they have not been repaired properly. District staff then enter the information into the fleet management system. The inability of volunteers to enter information into the system means they have no visibility over their requests, including whether they have been approved, actioned, or rejected.

Local councils are responsible for servicing and maintaining the firefighting fleet according to the Rural Fires Act, but this responsibility can be transferred to the RFS through arrangements described in local service agreements. Council staff record all fleet servicing and maintenance information in their local systems. The types of fleet information that is captured in local council records can vary between councils. RFS staff described the level of council reporting, and the effectiveness of this process, as 'mixed'.

Councils use different databases and systems to record fleet assets, and some councils are better resourced for this activity than others

Firefighting fleet information is recorded in different asset management systems across NSW. Each council uses its own asset management system to record details about the vested fleet assets. All three councils that were interviewed for this audit had different systems to record information about the fleet. In addition, the type of information captured by the three councils was varied.

Exhibit 10: Systems used by local councils to manage the firefighting fleet
System Hawkesbury City Council Uralla Shire Council Wagga Wagga City Council
Financial asset management system TechnologyOne Civica Assetic
Asset management system TechnologyOne Manual MEX

Source: Audit Office analysis of information provided by the RFS and local councils.

Local councils have varying levels of resources and capabilities to manage the administrative tasks associated with the firefighting fleet. Some of the factors that impact on the ability of councils to manage administrative tasks include: the size of the council; the capabilities of the information management systems, the size of the staff team, and the levels of staff training in asset management.

Uralla Shire Council is a small rural council in northern NSW. This council uses financial software to record information about the firefighting fleet. While staff record information about the condition of the asset, its replacement value, and its depreciation, staff do not record the age of the asset, or its location. Staff manually enter fleet maintenance information into their systems. Uralla Shire Council would like to purchase asset maintenance software that generates work orders for fleet repairs and maintenance. However, the council does not have trained staff in the use of asset management software, and the small size of the fleet may not make it financially worthwhile.

The Hawkesbury City Council uses a single system to capture financial and asset information associated with the firefighting fleet. Hawkesbury is a large metropolitan council located north-west of Sydney, with a relatively large staff team in comparison with Uralla Shire Council. The Hawkesbury City Council has given RFS District staff access to their fleet information system. RFS District staff can directly raise work orders for fleet repairs and maintenance through the council system, and receive automated notifications when the work is complete.

Two of the three audited councils report that they conduct annual reviews of fleet assets to assess whether the information they hold is accurate and up-to-date.

More than half of the fleet maintenance service agreements between the RFS and local councils have not been reviewed in ten years, and some do not reflect local practices

Local councils have a legislated responsibility to service, repair, and maintain the firefighting fleet to service standards set by the RFS. Councils may transfer this responsibility to the RFS through District Service Agreements. The RFS Districts are responsible for ensuring that the service agreements are current and effective.

The RFS does not have monitoring and quality control processes to ensure that service agreements with local councils are reviewed regularly. The RFS has 73 service agreements with local councils or groups of councils. Sixty-three per cent of service agreements had not been reviewed in the last ten years. Only four service agreements specify an end date and, of those, one agreement expired in 2010 and had not been reviewed at the time of this audit.

The RFS does not have a framework to ensure that service agreements with local councils reflect actual practices. Of the three councils selected for audit, one agreement does not describe the actual arrangements for fleet maintenance practices in RFS Districts. The service agreement with Hawkesbury City Council specifies that the RFS will maintain the firefighting fleet on behalf of council when, in fact, council maintains the firefighting fleet. The current agreement commenced in 2012, and at the time of writing had not been updated to reflect local maintenance practices.

When District Service Agreements are not reviewed periodically, there is a risk that neither local councils nor the RFS have clear oversight of the status of fleet servicing, maintenance, and repairs.

RFS District Service Agreements set out a requirement that RFS and local councils establish a liaison committee. Liaison committees typically include council staff, RFS District staff, and RFS brigade volunteers. While service agreements state that liaison committees must meet periodically to monitor and review the performance of the service agreement, committee members determine when and how often the committee meets.

RFS District staff and staff at the three audited councils are not meeting routinely to review or update their service agreements. At Wagga Wagga City Council, staff meet with RFS District staff each year to report on activity to fulfil service agreement requirements. Uralla Shire Council staff did not meet routinely with RFS District staff before 2021. When liaison committees do not meet regularly, there is a risk that the RFS and local councils have incorrect or outdated information about the location, status, or condition of the firefighting fleet. Given that councils lack systems to track and monitor fleet locations, regular communication between the RFS and local councils is essential.

The RFS has not established processes to ensure that local councils and RFS District personnel meet and exchange information about the fleet. Of the three councils selected for this audit, one council had not received information about the number, type, or status of the fleet for at least five years, and did not receive an updated list of appliances until there was a change in RFS District personnel. This has impacted on the accuracy of council record keeping. Councils do not always receive notification about new assets or information about the location of assets from the RFS, and therefore cannot reflect this information in their accounting and reporting.

RFS area commands audit system records to ensure fleet inspections occur as planned, but central systems are not always updated, creating operational risks

RFS District staff are required by the Rural Fires Act to ensure the firefighting fleet is inspected at least once a year. Regular inspections of the fleet are vital to ensure that vehicles are fit-for-purpose and safe for brigade volunteers. Inspections are also fundamental to the operational readiness and capability of RFS to respond to fire incidents.

RFS Area Command personnel conduct audits of fleet maintenance data to ensure that fleet inspections are occurring as planned. These inspections provide the RFS with assurance that the fleet is being maintained and serviced by local council workshops, or third-party maintenance contractors.

Some RFS Districts run their own fleet management systems outside of the central management system. They do this to manage their fleet inspection activity effectively. Annual fleet inspection dates are programmed by staff at RFS Headquarters. Most of the inspection dates generated by RFS Headquarters are clustered together and RFS Districts need to separate inspection times to manage workloads over the year. Spreading inspection dates is necessary to avoid exceeding the capacity of local council workshops or third party contractors, and to ensure that fleet are available during the bushfire season.

The fleet inspection records at RFS Headquarters are not always updated in a timely manner to reflect actual inspection and service dates of vehicles. District staff are not able to change fleet inspection and service dates in the central management system because they do not have the necessary permissions to access the system. The usual practice is for RFS District staff to notify staff at RFS Headquarters, and ask them to retrospectively update the system. As there is a lag in updating the central database, at a point in time, the actual inspection and service dates of vehicles can be different to the dates entered in the central fleet management system.

Fleet inspection and maintenance records must be accurately recorded in the central RFS management system for operational reasons. RFS Headquarters personnel need to know the location and maintenance status of fleet vehicles at all times in order to dispatch vehicles to incidents and fires. The RFS fleet management system is integrated with a new Computer Aided Dispatch System. The Computer Aided Dispatch System assigns the nearest and most appropriate vehicles to fire incidents. The system relies on accurate fleet locations and fleet condition information in order to dispatch these vehicles.

There is a risk that RFS Headquarters' systems do not contain accurate information about the location and status of vehicles. Some may be in workshops for servicing and repair, while the system may record them as available for dispatch. As there are many thousands of fleet vehicles, all requiring an annual service and inspection, a lack of accurate record keeping has wide implications for State fire operations.

RFS is currently exploring ways to improve the ways in which fleet inspections are programmed into the fleet management system.

RFS provides funds to councils to assist with maintaining the firefighting fleet, but does not receive fleet maintenance cost information from all local councils

Each year the RFS provides local councils with a lump sum to assist with the cost of repairing and maintaining the firefighting fleet. This lump sum funding is also used for meeting the costs of maintaining brigade stations, utilities, and other miscellaneous matters associated with RFS business.

In 2020–21, the RFS provided NSW local councils with approximately $23 million for maintenance and repairs of appliances, buildings, and utilities. Ninety councils were provided with lump sum funding in 2021, receiving on average $257,000. The amounts received by individual councils ranged from $56,200 to $1,029,884.

Some councils provide itemised repairs and maintenance reports to RFS District staff, showing the work completed and the cost of that work. However, not all councils collect this information or provide it to the RFS. Local councils collect fleet maintenance information in their local council systems. In some cases, the responsibility for fleet maintenance is shared across a group of councils, and not all councils have oversight of this process.

The RFS has not taken steps to require local councils to provide itemised maintenance costings for the firefighting fleet. Thus, the RFS does not have a clear understanding of how local councils are spending their annual fleet maintenance funding allocations. The RFS does not know if the funding allocations are keeping pace with the actual cost of repairing and maintaining the fleet.

RFS District staff report that funding shortfalls are impacting on the prioritisation of fleet servicing and maintenance works in some council areas. When fleet servicing and maintenance is not completed routinely or effectively, there is a risk that it can negatively impact the overall condition and lifespan of the vehicle. Poor processes in relation to fleet maintenance and repair risk impacting on the operational capabilities of the fleet during fire events.

The timeliness and effectiveness of fleet servicing and maintenance is affected by resource levels in RFS Districts and local councils

Local councils have a legislated responsibility to service and maintain the firefighting fleet to the service standards set by the RFS. Fleet maintenance is usually done by the entity with the appropriate workshops and resources, and the maintenance arrangements are described in District Service Agreements. RFS District staff conduct annual inspections to ensure that the firefighting fleet has been serviced and maintained appropriately, and is safe for use by brigade volunteers. If the fleet has not been maintained to RFS service standards or timelines, RFS District staff may work with local councils to support or remediate these works.

The effectiveness of this quality control activity is dependent on relationships and communication between the RFS Districts and local councils. While some RFS staff reported having positive relationships with local councils, others said they struggled to get fleet maintenance work done in a timely manner. Some councils reported that funding shortfalls for fleet maintenance activity was impacting on the prioritisation of RFS fleet maintenance works. When fleet maintenance work is not completed routinely or effectively, it can negatively impact on the overall condition and lifespan of the vehicle. It can also reduce the capacity of the RFS to respond to fire events.

Fleet quality control activities are carried out by RFS District staff. In some of the smaller RFS Districts, one person is responsible for liaising with local councils and brigade volunteers about fleet maintenance and repairs. In the regions where resources are limited, there is less ability to maintain ongoing communication. This is impacting on fleet service and maintenance timelines and the timeliness of fleet monitoring activity.

The RFS has mutual support arrangements with agencies in NSW and interstate, though shared fleet levels are yet to be quantified

The RFS has arrangements with state, federal, and international fire authorities to provide mutual support during fire incidents. In NSW, the RFS has agreements with the three statutory authorities – Fire and Rescue NSW, the Forestry Corporation of NSW, and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The agreement with Fire and Rescue NSW provides a framework for cooperation and joint operations between the agencies. The agreements with the Forestry Corporation of NSW and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service describe the control and coordination arrangements for bush and grass fires across NSW. These arrangements are set out in legislation and incorporated into local Bush Fire Risk Management Plans.

The RFS has agreements with fire authorities in three of the four Australian states and territories that share a border with NSW – the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, and South Australia. Each agreement sets out the arrangements for mutual assistance and joint operations, including arrangements for sharing aircraft. The agreement between the RFS and Victoria had lapsed. The RFS told the NSW Bushfire Inquiry that the agreement with Victoria would be finalised by June 2020. In June 2022, the RFS reported that the agreement was in the process of being finalised.

The arrangements for mutual aid from Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania, are managed by the National Resource Sharing Centre. These agreements set out the arrangements for interstate assistance between Australian fire services, emergency services, and land management agencies in those states and territories.

These mutual support arrangements may assist during state-based fire events. However, when there are competing demands for resources, such as during the bushfires of 2019–2020, there can be limits on fleet availability. During the 2019–2020 fires, resources were stretched in all jurisdictions as these fires affected NSW, Victoria, and Queensland.

There are opportunities for the RFS and other NSW agencies to quantify fleet resources across the State and identify assets that can be mobilised for different fire activities. This form of fleet planning may be used to enhance surge capabilities during times of high fire activity. There are also opportunities for the RFS and other agencies to match the levels of shared assets to projected bushfire risks.

Appendix one – Responses from agencies 

Appendix two – About the audit 

Appendix three – Performance auditing

 

Copyright notice

© Copyright reserved by the Audit Office of New South Wales. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent of the Audit Office of New South Wales. The Audit Office does not accept responsibility for loss or damage suffered by any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any of this material.

 

Parliamentary reference - Report number #376 - released 27 February 2023

 

Published

Actions for Government's acquisition of private property: Sydney Metro project

Government's acquisition of private property: Sydney Metro project

Transport
Planning
Whole of Government
Compliance
Infrastructure
Internal controls and governance
Project management
Risk

What the report is about

Sydney Metro is Australia’s largest public transport project. It requires the acquisition of many private properties, including residential and business properties.

This audit assessed the effectiveness of the acquisition of private properties for the Sydney Metro project. The audited agencies were Sydney Metro, the Department of Planning and Environment (Valuer General NSW) and Transport for NSW (the Centre for Property Acquisition).

The audit assessed agencies against the framework for property acquisitions in New South Wales. It did not re-perform the valuations done for individual properties that were acquired by Sydney Metro.

What we found

Acquisitions of private property for the Sydney Metro project were mostly effective in the sample of acquisitions we assessed. We found Sydney Metro:

  • complied with legislative and policy requirements for compensation and communication with people subject to property acquisitions
  • kept accurate records of its acquisitions and applied probity controls consistently
  • did not complete detailed plans or negotiation strategies for the high-risk and high-value acquisitions we reviewed
  • did not comply with legislative timelines for most compulsory acquisitions because of delays in receiving the required information from the Valuer General in these cases.

The Centre for Property Acquisition has overseen the implementation of reforms to residential acquisition processes, but its assessment of the effectiveness of these reforms has not been comprehensive.

What we recommended

The audit made four recommendations to the audited agencies to improve:

  • plans and strategies for the acquisition of high-risk and high-value properties
  • timeliness of issuing compensation determinations for compulsory acquisitions
  • data quality on the experience of people subject to property acquisitions.

The NSW Government has the power to acquire land that is owned or leased by individuals or businesses, if it is needed for a public purpose. The power arises from the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 (the Just Terms Act). Government agencies that have the power to compulsorily acquire private property are referred to as ‘acquiring authorities’. People who are subject to acquisitions are referred to as ‘affected parties’ and include property owners (business or residential), businesses with a commercial lease on a property, or individuals with residential tenancy leases. In recent years, the vast majority of acquisitions by the NSW Government have been for public transport or road projects.

Sydney Metro is a NSW Government agency with responsibility for building the Sydney Metro railway project. Sydney Metro is Australia’s largest public transport project. The project requires the acquisition of a large number of private properties. Sydney Metro has been one of the largest acquirers of private property in recent years, completing over 500 acquisitions between 2020 and mid-2022, with a total acquisition value of over $2 billion. Other agencies and statutory officers involved in the acquisition of property for the Sydney Metro project include:

  • the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), which supports the minister responsible for the Just Terms Act. DPE also provides staff to the Valuer General of NSW
  • the Valuer General of NSW, an independent statutory officer that determines compensation in cases where the acquiring authority and the affected party cannot agree on compensation for property that has been acquired
  • Transport for NSW, which includes the Centre for Property Acquisition (CPA). The CPA does not have a direct role in acquiring properties, but its responsibilities include developing guidance for acquiring agencies and monitoring and reporting on their activities.

About this audit

The objective of this audit was to assess the effectiveness of acquisitions of private properties for Sydney Metro projects. The audit assessed agencies against the legislative and policy requirements in place for government acquisitions of private property in New South Wales. In line with the Audit Office's legislative mandate, the audit does not comment on the merits of the policy objectives reflected in the Just Terms Act.

The audit examined a sample of 20 property acquisitions. This was not a statistically representative sample. While our report provides comments on Sydney Metro’s overall acquisition processes, it does not provide assurance regarding the acquisitions that were not examined for this audit.

The audit did not re-perform the valuations done for individual properties that were acquired by Sydney Metro. Affected parties who disagree with the valuation of their property have the right to seek independent assessment of this via the Valuer General and the Land and Environment Court.

Conclusion

Acquisitions of property for the Sydney Metro project were mostly effective in the sample of acquisitions we assessed. Sydney Metro followed requirements for communication with affected parties. Compensation processes were conducted in compliance with legislative requirements, but compensation determinations for compulsory acquisitions were not completed within legislated time frames due to delays in receiving these from the Valuer General. Governance and probity processes were followed consistently, with some relatively minor exceptions. 

Sydney Metro has detailed guidelines for acquisitions that are based on relevant legislation and government policy. In the 20 acquisitions we assessed for this audit, these procedures were followed consistently. This included adhering to minimum timelines for negotiation periods, engaging independent valuers and other experts when needed, and complying with governance and probity processes.

Sydney Metro staff followed requirements for communication and support for residential acquisitions by assigning ‘personal managers’ and providing additional support to affected parties when needed. The Centre for Property Acquisition (CPA) has overseen reforms to the residential property acquisition process in recent years. These reforms include the introduction of the NSW Property Acquisition Standards and the use of personal managers, in addition to the existing acquisition managers, for residential acquisitions. However, the CPA has not assessed the impact of these changes on the experiences on people affected by property acquisitions.

Sydney Metro did not comply with the legislative requirement to provide a formal compensation notice to the affected party within 45 days of a compulsory acquisition starting in any of the eight relevant acquisitions in our sample. This was because Sydney Metro must wait for the Valuer General to complete a compensation determination before Sydney Metro can send the compensation notice, and the Valuer General did not do this within 45 days. We acknowledge that Sydney Metro does not have full control over this process, and that it has taken steps to mitigate the impact of delays on affected parties. 

This chapter presents our findings on Sydney Metro's acquisition of industrial and commercial properties. Industrial properties include construction businesses and manufacturing facilities. Commercial properties were mostly properties such as shopping centres and office towers. Many of these acquisitions involve businesses and properties that are relatively complex and have high values. This means the valuation process can require multiple experts and can be lengthy and contested. Adherence to governance and probity requirements is important for these acquisitions in order to demonstrate that the acquiring authority has achieved value for money.

This chapter presents our findings on Sydney Metro's acquisition of residential properties, which include apartments and houses, and small business leases, which mostly affected businesses in small shopping centres or arcades. Most of these acquisitions were lower value compared to industrial and commercial property acquisitions and did not require as much expert advice on complex technical issues. However, residential property acquisitions can be personally distressing for the affected parties and require staff from the acquiring authority to provide support and show empathy while ensuring legislative compliance and value for money.

Appendix one – Responses from agencies

Appendix two – About the audit 

Appendix three – Performance auditing 

 

Copyright notice

© Copyright reserved by the Audit Office of New South Wales. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent of the Audit Office of New South Wales. The Audit Office does not accept responsibility for loss or damage suffered by any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any of this material.

 

Parliamentary reference - Report number #375 - released 9 February 2023