Writings: Biosecurity Queensland's Fire Ant Program Cover-up and Failure. Hiding 2021 Audit Report. Failing to implement 2019 Audit recommendations. Time for a Royal Commission.

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Chair of the Steering Committee of the National Fire Ant Eradication Program,  Dr Wendy Craik, commissioned Dr Helen Scott-Orr, ex-Commonwealth Inspector General of Biosecurity, to conduct the 2021 Efficiency and Effectiveness Audit of the program. Dr Scott-Orr completed her review in August 2021, but Dr Craik has not released it to the public.

The 2019 Efficiency and Effectiveness Audit of the Program, conducted by Mr Bernard Wonder, ex-Deputy Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, was scathing, but Dr Craik published his report, in full, on the Program’s website.

She has not published Dr Scott-Orr’s report on the Program’s website. How bad must it be???

The only thing Dr Craik has published, in May 2021, are the Program’s inadequate responses to Mr Wonder’s recommendations from 2019 which show the program:

  • still can’t define the extent of the infestation which continues to spread.
  • has expanded the treatment area to include so-called ‘suppression zones.’
  • won’t update its 2020 performance indicators.
  • is still working to ensure adequate and timely supplies of bait, field staff and aerial services.
  • is still developing contingencies for wet or windy weather.
  • has not prioritised treating significant detections found outside the Operational Area.
  • has not clarified its shared responsibility with the public for treating and containing fire ants
  • does not impose adequate regulations and costs on those who create fire ant habitat.
  • does not make adequate use of infringement notices and prosecutions to improve compliance with movement controls.
  • does not employ enough Compliance Officers
  • is still improving its procurement processes for bait and aerial services.
  • is still improving labour productivity
  • is still revising the Program’s Standard Operating Procedures.
  • still does not have an adequate information system.

Mr Wonder also recommended the Steering Committee improve its own performance by separating itself from the Program, approving plans in a timely manner, meeting frequently enough to address significant issues, having the expertise to address significant issues, reporting to the funders and the public in a timely manner and initiating a review if the risks become sufficiently problematic that the program can no longer achieve its objectives.

It is time for a Royal Commission to hold the Steering Committee of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program to account for an out-of-control fire ant infestation and the waste of public money.  

12th August 2022