Auditor pulls up emergency agencies

by Judy Skatssoon of Government News The NSW Auditor General has found shortcomings in how emergency response agencies are responding to recommendations from previous inquiries into natural disasters like bushfires and floods.

The audit looked at how the RSF, SES, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks and Wildlife and Resilience NSW addressed recommendations about how to better respond to natural disasters.

It found “important and consistent gaps” and said the agencies failed to show they’d implemented, or were monitoring, the recommendations.

“This creates a risk that issues with disaster prevention or responses highlighted by public inquiries are not addressed in a complete or timely way and may persist or recur in the future,” Auditor General Margaret Crawford said.

191 recommendations

The audit looked at processes the agencies used to implement 191 recommendations from 17 public inquiries into bushfires, severe storms and floods.

The inquiries related to the 2013-14, 2016-17- and 2017-18 bushfire seasons and storms and flooding in 2015, 2016 and 2017, as well as workforce issues.

The report found that two-thirds of the recommendations haven’t been implemented, or allocated any milestone dates or priority rankings.

The was also a failure to report publicly on progress raising concerns about about accountability, Ms Crawford said.

“No agency maintained a central and comprehensive approach – such as a register – to track recommendations for all public inquiries,” she said.

Senior executive with responsibility

The report recommends that all agencies should have a senior manager who is responsible for implementing recommendations.

It says there should be a formal mechanism for accepting recommendations and a requirement publish an update every 12 months.

The auditor also says Resilience NSW should begin operating the central accountability mechanism recommended by the NSW Bushfire Inquiry by the end of this year.

Resilience NSW says it’s in the process of establishing the mechanism, and would report to parliament on the recommendations of the NSW bushfire Inquiry next month.

Ms Crawford said the NSW Bushfire Inquiry and the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements were outside the scope of the current audit but had also raised questions about how previous recommendations were being implemented. This article was first published in Government News