Thursday, September 27, 2012

No skills, no clues. The states that mismanaged the Education Revolution


Building the Education Revolution


Cost per square $3500
Projects complained about 8%


Cost per square $3000
Projects complained about 4%

South Australia

Cost per square $2500
Projects complained about 1%

Western Australia

Cost per square $2000
Projects complained about 1%

The Lost Lessons of the BER Program, Centre for Policy Development. Building costs are adjusted for remoteness of location.

Were the Building the Education Revolution projects run badly? Only in states where governments that chose not to run them, according to new research published today that targets NSW and Victoria for special criticism.

The analysis by the left-leaning Centre for Policy Development finds the Labor governments in NSW and Victoria performed the worst on just about every measure when it came to handling the funds doled out during the 2008 financial crisis to build new school halls.

In contrast the Liberal government in Western Australia and the labor government in South Australia performed well.

Only 1 per cent of the projects in the smaller states received complaints compared to 8 per cent in NSW and 4 per cent in Victoria. The costs in the big states were $500 to $1500 per square metre higher.

The study says the big difference is that NSW and Victoria contracted out most of the management to big building firms. South Australia and Western Australia managed the projects themselves...

“Victoria and NSW divided up their state into large geographic areas and said to the contractors - it’s your responsibility to make sure these schools are built. The smaller states still had the functioning public works departments and did the work themselves,” said lead researcher Tim Roxburgh.

“Victoria really had no choice, the cutbacks in the Kennett era had stripped the place of engineers and architects. NSW did have the capacity to manage its program itself but didn’t bother.”

“It is not that governments need to build things from floor to roof, what they do need is enough expertise to interact skillfully with the private sector in order to achieve value for money. At some point someone in the public service needs to know something about the details of engineering.”

The study finds the similar pattern in Catholic schools which generally did well making use of in-house expertise. The exception was Sydney where a large area was contracted out and built expensively.

“What's really worrying is that this must happen all the time. We only know the Building the Education projects because records were made public. We don’t know about other projects in which NSW and Victoria are getting bad value for money because they have lost their expertise,” Mr Roxburgh said.

Published in today's Sydney Morning Herald

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