Vic hotel quarantine inquiry interim report calls for clearly defined roles and accountability structures

By Shannon Jenkins

November 6, 2020

(AAP Image/James Ross)

The inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine system has made 69 recommendations to government, including improvements to accountability in regards to ministers and departments.

The inquiry’s 84-page interim report released on Friday came as the state recorded its seventh day of zero new COVID-19 cases.

The report noted that, despite the low number of positive cases in hotel quarantine, “breaches of containment in the program in May and June led to the second wave of COVID-19 cases in Victoria, with devastating social and economic consequences for the state”.

It proposed that the future state quarantine program involve “the use of two models operating concurrently”: a facility-based model (like the hotel quarantine program) and a home-based model.

Failures in accountability aired at the hotel quarantine inquiry have led to the resignation of Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles and health minister Jenny Mikakos in recent months.

To address these failures, the inquiry has recommended that in the future, the state government ensures that:

  • At the ministerial and departmental level, clear control and accountability structures are in place for the operation of the quarantine program. The program is to be operated by one Cabinet-approved department with support from other departments as necessary, but in accordance with a “clear line of command vesting ultimate responsibility in the approved department and minister”.
  • The minister and department named as the single agency accountable for the operation of the quarantine program is also the department that is the sole agency responsible for any necessary contracts.

Read more: The Briefing: Jenny Mikakos’ resignation, ‘collective decision-making’ and systemic contracting at Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry

Meanwhile, the responsible minister should ensure that the departmental structure for the operation of the program has clearly defined roles that have “the necessary expertise and advice embedded at appropriate levels of seniority in the operational structure”, the report recommended.

The minister must also ensure that the appropriate senior members of that governance structure form a ‘Quarantine Governing Body’, to be chaired by the secretary to the responsible minister. The body would meet regularly, maintain records of its meetings as well as all decisions made, and would provide reports to the minister on those meetings.

The inquiry recommended the Quarantine Governing Body would also provide regular, timely and accurate reports to the minister on the operation of the program, including reports on compliance, monitoring and risks.

It should also set “clear and consistent lines of accountability” across all individual sites operating as quarantine facilities, the report said.

While a final report was expected to be delivered on November 6, inquiry chair Jennifer Coate said that, “most regrettably”, additional, “potentially significant” material has delayed the final report.

The final report will explore the actions of and communication between government agencies, hotel operators and private contractors; contractual arrangements; information, guidance, training and equipment provided to personnel in hotels; and policies, protocols and procedures.

Read more: Victoria’s top bureaucrat Chris Eccles resigns


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