Merwan Saher, Auditor General, recommended in his April 2010 report that the Department of Employment and Immigration enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act for employers who persistently fail to comply. On page 40 of the Report, he concluded that the Department does not systematically identify and track persistent non-compliance and does not have a clear decision ladder for escalating compliance action from promotion and education to enforcement. He reported, on page 41, that from a sample of compliance orders taken from the Department’s records, he identified 63 employers with orders open for more than one year.
Questions have now been raised in the media about the validity of this number.
Why did the Auditor General report this number of persistent non-complying employers extracted from the Department’s records? He did it to illustrate that the Department did not have adequate systems to track and deal with persistent non-compliance. He is confident that his staff did sufficient work, including a rigorous process of discussion of the findings with the Department, that resulted in the Department agreeing with the recommendation.
Following a review of its own records, and doing additional work, the Department has now concluded that the records are inaccurate. The Department’s review determined that significant numbers of those orders were open because of administrative error: OHS officers have failed to update them following reinspections that evidence compliance. The Department’s conclusion that its records are inaccurate supports the Auditor General’s conclusion that there are weaknesses in the Department’s current systems. The Auditor General stands by the recommendation that the Department needs to improve the systems necessary to enforce the OHS Act.
The Department has started to implement new systems to improve how compliance with the OHS Act is monitored and enforced. The Auditor General will follow up on the recommendation when the Department believes it has been implemented.