BY: NATASHA ROBINSON From: The Australian May 29, 2012 12:00AM
CONSTRUCTION firms contracted to build houses in Aboriginal communities may be tempted to "overcharge and under-deliver" as flawed remote housing policies impose unrealistic timelines and poor quality control.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Study released today warns that construction firms "may end up gaming the system by overcharging and under-delivering on both new housing and upgrades of houses" in remote communities.
The study on constructing and maintaining houses said that the number of dwellings managed by indigenous community housing organisations which required major repair or replacement increased from 27 per cent in 2001 to 31 per cent in 2006, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
And data from 1999 to 2011 compiled by the organisation Healthabitat showed a high proportion of indigenous dwellings did not have fully functioning hardware such as a toilet, electricity, hot water or washing facilities.
The poor standard of indigenous remote housing was related to "a number of challenges in the design, construction, and maintenance" of dwellings, the report said.
It also said that rigorous inspection programs of completed houses was necessary to ensure quality control. But it said pressures on construction firms contracted to build remote housing could lead to corners being cut.
"Some construction firms, faced with remote locations, government funding dependent on achieving timelines and a lack of independent quality control, may end up gaming the system by overcharging and under-delivering on both new housing and upgrades of houses.
"Although this practice might not be widespread, it will continue to develop unless several levels of quality control are in place."
Up to three-quarters of new houses built under the $672 million Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program at Aboriginal town camps in Alice Springs were revealed this year to require repairs when materials used in wall construction began to buckle and crack.
The damage was due to defects in building materials.