Home | News | ACQSC accused of ‘unacceptable ignorance’ about standard of audits made by consultants
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson. Picture: Supplied.

ACQSC accused of ‘unacceptable ignorance’ about standard of audits made by consultants

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) has been accused of "unacceptable ignorance" about the standard of audits performed by consultants that have been paid tens of millions of dollars to inspect aged care homes across Australia.

The aged care regulator revealed one-third of all audits conducted by consultants over a 12-month period – which were of 350 homes – were initially rejected because they were not up to standard.

The Guardian Australia reported that four firms, RSM, HDAA, SAI Global, and KPMG, were paid more than $40m to conduct the audits despite declaring 528 real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest.

Greens senator Janet Rice criticised ACQSC commissioner Janet Anderson for saying in an October Senate estimates hearing that only "a small proportion" of consultant audits were initially rejected due to substandard work.

"Anderson's response to me that the problem only lay with a small proportion of the audits indicates an unacceptable ignorance of the problems that so often occur when sensitive and complex tasks are outsources to for-profit providers," Ms Rice told The Guardian Australia.

"This admission, as well as hundreds of reported conflicts of interest, is an illustration of what can go wrong when for-profit consultants are brought in to do a job that should be handled by government."

Whilst Ms Anderson did not directly respond to Ms Rice, she said every audit was subject to "rigorous quality assurance".

"An audit report could be up to 100 pages or more in length, depending on the size and complexity of the service being audited and the observations made by the quality assessor team," Ms Anderson said.

"When we refer to reports requiring additional work, it can include things like adding extra detail or clarification to an observation, changes to formatting or correcting typographical errors."

The ethics of the consulting industry have been a subject of parliamentary inquiry, especially since PwC's advisory role to the ATO and private clients.

PwC was also suspended as the firm did not disclose any real or perceived conflicts of interest to the federal government before it was awarded a $2.3m aged care contract.

But former senior health department official and senior adviser to the Royal Commission Charles Maskell-Knight defended using consultants in some circumstances.

"If there is a choice between not doing audits at all due to staff shortages, or doing them using third parties, it is clearly in the interests of people receiving aged care that the audits are carried out, even if it is by consultants," Mr Maskell-Knight told The Guardian Australia.

"I am sure that the ACQSC will be making every effort to ensure it has the staff in-house to carry out its core functions and avoid the need to outsource the work, given the inherent risks of conflicts of interest and under performance."

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One comment

  1. “$40m to conduct the audits”!!! Why doesn’t the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission appoint official visitors to inspect and report on aged care homes across Australia?

    NSW has official visitors for mental health care facilities, accommodation services for children and young people, and people with disabilities, and Corrective Services. Official Visitors are appointed by the minister responsible and work independently from the departments. The NSW government reports that the official visitor’s program is extremely valuable in supporting vulnerable people and identifying broader issues within the facilities.

    The cost to the Commonwealth for official visitors would be only a fraction of $40m!

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