Royal Commission called for into catastrophic collapse
THE collapse of a builder preferred by Gympie and Sunshine Coast councils has sparked a call for a Royal Commission into the construction industry.
Gympie MP Tony Perrett issued the call during a parliamentary speech supporting the State Government's amended Building Industry Fairness Bill on Wednesday.
However, he said the State's efforts did not go far enough to protect those left in the lurch.
"The Government has only rolled out a fraction of what they said they would do," Mr Perrett said.
"It will be eight years from its 2015 election promise before we'll fully see the implementation of Project Bank Accounts.
"The Government has dragged its feet and the progressive extension of the Project Trust Account system across our $46 billion construction sector will only start from March next year.
"The LNP has called for an Inquiry into the Building and Construction Industry with the growing list of issues such as non-payment issues, fraudulent practices, false statutory declarations, illegal phoenixing activity, and company collapses.
"They are endemic within the industry."
But the buck did not stop with the State, Mr Perrett said.
The collapse of Ri-Con Contractors, which owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gympie businesses for work done on Gympie Regional Council projects, raised "serious questions about due diligence processes" within the previous council.
"Thirty business and individuals around the Gympie region were owed money" Mr Perrett said.
"These projects were funded by taxpayers' and ratepayers' money.
"It stands to reason that the council would keep a close check on how funds were being sent.
"It's called due diligence.
"I received complaints from subcontractors alleging they were not paid despite Ri-Con providing the GRC with statutory declarations confirming otherwise… … that the subcontractors had been paid.
"It was alleged to me that the statutory declarations provided to the GRC were false."
Mr Perrett wrote to the Police Commissioner asking for a fraud squad investigation; he was told this request was referred to the Financial and Cyber Crime Group.
"I also wrote to the former Chief Executive of the GRC pointing out that I had been told that the council was made aware that subcontractors had not been paid," he said.
"Astonishingly the GRC's response indicates that it did not seek any sort of verification of the statutory declarations.
"Any reasonable person would regard this as government meeting the practical expectation of the community.
"I was advised that Council does not have the full schedule of payments made and when they were made, and it was not fully aware of the circumstances around the signing of the declarations.
"This raises serious issues about the conduct of due diligence obligations, oversight, governance, and business within the council.
"Councils conduct business with taxpayers and ratepayers' money.
"Gympie ratepayers deserve a better oversight of the spending of their funds," he said.