The National Indigenous Australians Agency’s management of a housing program in remote Northern Territory has only been “partly effective”, an audit has found.
The Australian National Audit Office found shortcomings with the NIAA’s part in the National Partnership for Remote Housing in the NT, which the federal government committed $550 million to in 2018.
The money is aimed at improving housing conditions and reducing overcrowding in 73 remote communities across the territory and 17 town camps in Alice Springs, and is meant to be delivered over five years.
But in September last year, 20 months before the end of the partnership, the auditors found only 19% of the 1950 bedrooms agreed to receive works were complete.
“NIAA’s key concern when monitoring NT Government’s delivery of the program of works has been the slow pace of construction, and NIAA has consequently focused on seeking to accelerate the delivery of houses,” the auditors found.
The NT government has committed to completing the full program of capital works but the auditors have warned the NIAA against accelerating the delivery of federal funds if it will impact the territory government’s capacity to deliver the works.
It found the NIAA did not have assurance that housing meets required standards; that local Indigenous Territorians and businesses were delivering the works; and that a local decision-making process was effectively informing construction.
Just over half of the houses in remote Indigenous communities in the NT are experiencing overcrowding, the audit says.
Although the auditors found the program had been “partly effective”, there were shortcomings in how the NIAA assesses the delivery of the works and ensures the partnership outcomes are being delivered.
The auditors found the program’s implementation plan had “significant weaknesses” and “lacks clarity and specificity”.
The auditors have recommended the NIAA revise the document to provide “accurate information” about how the parties involved in the partnership will achieve the program’s outcomes.
The NIAA has been working with the NT government to improve verification processes since last year, the audit noted.
The NIAA said in its response that it had made several attempts last year to visit communities to view the progress of works, but the visits had been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions and community closures.