Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Sitting with me in my electorate office was a constituent at a loss financially. He was frustrated, exasperated and totally fed up. This is the human face reflecting the Labor Party’s failed Green Loans scheme. This scheme was aimed at making it more affordable for Australians to make their homes more energy efficient. However, it was dumped after three scathing independent reports exposed extensive mismanagement. The reports found widespread lack of compliance with government regulations on procurement, an absence of effective program supervision and poor financial controls of the program, among other things. The report found the department focused on speed rather than quality.
As the scheme was recognised as failing, it was moved from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. The government has replaced the scheme with a grants based program despite a Senate committee recommendation that it not proceed, at least not without considerable qualifications. Program changes announced on 9 February 2010 effectively capped the number of assessors and the demand for assessments, but it left thousands of assessors, who had each invested their time and around $3,000 on training, insurance and registration, with unfulfilled work expectations. The backlog of assessment reports to be distributed continued to grow to over 100,000, which denied many householders the opportunity to apply for an interest-free green loan. These are no longer available. The Australian National Audit Office report found that the scheme had a number of design flaws and that aspects of the program had not been administered to the standard that the government and the community expected. It was noted that around 4,000 of the 7,500 assessors had been contracted under the program but, with the program capped at 5,000 assessors, some assessors would not receive contracts to work under the program.
There was a backlog of around 100,000 assessment reports yet to be sent to households. The delay in dispatching assessment reports was a contributing factor to the low uptake of green loans. Only 1,705 loans had been approved by participating financial institutions at that time. Green Rewards cards had not been distributed to households and delays in paying assessors were mostly due to incorrectly rendered invoices, with around 50 per cent of the invoices incorrect or incomplete when first submitted. In the wash-up of the failed scheme, it is the assessors who to stand to lose the most. As one assessor commented:
The Auditor-General’s report is a must read for all those people thinking of working with Government. One can see from the report into the GLP, that a lack of management and what private businesses would see as common sense, is simply not present most of the time. Failings are common place around every corner.
After reading the report there has to be a serious doubt about staying involved in the new Green Start program. It is not a matter of thinking change but logics, common sense and financial survival.
In a 21 October email that one of my constituents sent to me, he sums up his communications with the department:
I have sent them documentation (at their request) for the fourth time requesting work as an assessor. Some of this I sent by registered post and I still haven’t received a confirmation that this has been received. How long does it take for a letter to get to the national capital? (Time expired)