Danielle Lowe

Audit reveals schools not being maintained properly

AN AUDIT into public schools has revealed the Department of Education is not maintaining its schools according to its own standards and requirements.

The Queensland Audit Office report into public school maintenance funding showed the problem stemmed from lack of funding.

It said the department was going through a cycle of "reactive maintenance" and needed to be more proactive.

The report said a maintenance backlog occurred when there was not enough funding.

"As a result, school buildings and school ground facilities can deteriorate much faster than intended, and so reach the end of their useful lives earlier than they should," it stated.

The report said the department had a backlog of needed maintenance work in 1271 schools, valued at about $298 million, in June 2012. The then government stepped in and provided and extra $300 million to be paid out over three years in two programs.

Schools had two options to use funding, through the direct-to-market method or through the building and asset service (BAS) unit of the Housing and Public Works Department.

The report said the direct-to-market method allowed schools to get competitive prices for maintenance work but schools had to complete the background checks of maintenance workers.

But the BAS unit had its own contractors to carry out the work.

This method was more popular in regional areas, where there was shortage of choice.

In North Queensland, 73% of schools preferred this method over finding their own contractors.

On the North Coast, 76% preferred to use the Public Works Department, along with 85% of Central Queensland schools.

About 93% of Darling Downs and South-West schools also preferred using the department.

The Audit Office's report also revealed the Education Department did not have benchmarks to determine if schools' buildings had improved under the maintenance program. It only focused on what needed to be done in the next 12-18 months.

"The model for allocating funds to schools changed over the three years, and these changes were confusing for schools," the report said.

"The funding model for 2015-16 has not been confirmed, creating further uncertainty for schools on what funding they will receive to maintain their school buildings."

The report also said over the three years the extra funding was rolled out, the maintenance backlog was reduced to $30.27 million, in 529 schools, as of October last year.

But it was hard to tell if this reduction was because of the government funding or if because some schools used capital and other funding sources to fix buildings.


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