Workcover National Certificate of Competency Holder Retesting

About this Item
SubjectsTAFE; Workcover: New South Wales; Independent Commission Against Corruption: ICAC
SpeakersGallacher The Hon Michael; Della Bosca The Hon John
BusinessQuestions Without Notice
Commentary Additional Answer at end of question time

Page: 14023

    The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: My question is directed to the Special Minister of State, Minister for Commerce, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Did an Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] investigation last year find that some 20,000 certificate holders required retesting as their certificates may have been gained under false pretences or by corrupt means? Did the TAFE retesting program begin in July last year, and in the first three months were only 828 certificate holders assessed? At this rate of retesting will it take WorkCover approximately eight years to retest the 20,000 certificate holders?

    The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: The question closely relates to a question that the Leader of the Opposition asked me yesterday in relation to investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. WorkCover had concerns about the activities of at least one of its employees in relation to licensing. The matter was referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which is now undertaking an investigation of the employee. The ICAC asked WorkCover not to take any action against the employee while the investigation was being conducted. When it became clear that the commission's investigation would take a long time, following consultation with the ICAC, WorkCover decided to suspend the employee. WorkCover notified the ICAC when it became aware of corrupt activity and in early 2003 the commission began an investigation into accredited assessors and trainers, as outlined in the narrative of the question of the Leader of the Opposition. The ICAC released the report on its investigation in June last year. This report revealed that the assessors in question had issued approximately 30,000 certificates relating to competency during the admitted period of misconduct. In the interest of fairness WorkCover has implemented a retesting program for workers who received certificates of competency from these assessors during the period.

    Certificate holders had had the option of being retested at TAFE at WorkCover's expense or by an assessor at their own cost. Aside from contacting these certificate holders by mail, WorkCover is also listing cancelled certificates on its web site so that employees, as well as employers, can ensure that a certificate is current. Further initiatives introduced by WorkCover include establishing an audit management unit to conduct rigorous audits of WorkCover’s approved service providers, such as accredited assessors, investigating and taking action against those found to be operating corruptly or inappropriately, and implementing an amnesty period in 2004 to allow any workers who obtained certificates of competency without having a completed proper knowledge or practical assessment to hand in their certificates and avoid prosecution.

    Investigations by the new audit management unit and the amnesty have resulted in, as at February this year, the cancellation of 51 accredited assessors and the suspension of another 18 and the cancellation of 15 accredited trainers and the suspension of another eight. WorkCover also conducted a number of compliance blitzes in 2003 and 2004, which involved random retesting of operators’ knowledge and competency in the handling of equipment such as forklifts and cranes, and other potentially high-risk work such as dogging, rigging and scaffolding. During a month-long blitz on building safety across the State, WorkCover inspectors visited more than 400 employers and issued approximately 700 safety notices. WorkCover also changed the administration of the compulsory health and safety induction training for construction workers to detect and minimise such corrupt activities.