‘It’s got to be better’: Premier vows to fix troubled building authority
Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
Premier Daniel Andrews says his government is determined to improve Victoria’s trouble-plagued construction watchdog.
As Victorian Building Authority (VBA) employees and Rob Karkut’s friends and family members stood vigil outside the regulator’s office on Friday to mark a year since the building inspector took his own life, Andrews confirmed the government held significant concerns about the watchdog’s performance but could not comment on its future.
Andrea Holden at Friday’s memorial for her late partner, building inspector Rob Karkut.Credit: Marta Pascual Juanola
“I am frustrated by not being able to speak more freely about that, but there needs to be a proper process followed,” Andrews said. “What is absolutely certain is that it can’t continue operating the way it has been. It has got to be better, and we’re determined to do that.”
Karkut, a building inspector with more than 16 years’ experience at the VBA, took his own life last May, amid intense pressure from the authority’s managers to meet ambitious inspection targets. A litany of failings within the organisation have been exposed since his death.
Friends, relatives and colleagues gathered in front of a large, smiling portrait of the 55-year-old while holding signs calling for the VBA board to be sacked. “Bullying needs to stop,” one sign read. “No one should die at work,” read another.
The mood was sombre as Karkut’s partner, Andrea Holden, called on the government to intervene to stop the toxic culture inside the organisation.
“The reason we are out in front of the VBA is to show management that we will not go away, and we will never stop the fight,” Holden told the crowd.
“A lot of us have been aware of the ongoing issues at the VBA for many years now. I’m calling on the Victorian government to step in and take action.”
The vigil came days after Sue Eddy resigned as chief executive of the VBA.
Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny is reviewing the authority’s governance and performance. One of the options being discussed is moving the VBA into the Department of Transport and Planning, which would strip it of its statutory powers.
A woman leaves flowers as a mark of respect to Rob Karkut.Credit: Marta Pascual Juanola
Holden told The Age said she felt relieved about Eddy’s resignation.
“It was a happy moment that I haven’t had for a long time,” she said.
“It’s so tragic what’s happened … the way that people have been treated within the organisation, the toxicity and the KPIs that people have had to meet that were unachievable. I just thought it was important to come here today to let the VBA management know that this isn’t going to go away.”
A WorkSafe investigation after Karkut’s death found pressure on building and plumbing inspectors to meet ambitious targets set by the Andrews government made the authority an unsafe workplace.
Inspectors told WorkSafe investigators they felt pressured not to complete thorough inspections to avoid finding faults on projects, so they could meet the targets.
The Age and 60 Minutes this week further revealed inspectors were completing virtual audits rather than physically attending construction sites despite legal advice that by doing so, the VBA might breach its requirements under the state’s Building Act.
In taped conversations obtained by this masthead, Karkut told human resource officers at the authority three months before his death that he had been pushed to the brink while trying to do his job as best he could.
“I’m at breaking point,” Karkut said in a conversation that he informed his managers he was taping.
With Rachel Eddie and Clay Lucas
Lifeline 13 11 14; Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article