In March 2017, the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) reported that while Biosecurity Queensland was delivering on program activities and outputs, it could not report on program effectiveness or efficiency because it did not have a functioning information system and did not collect data on specific, measurable performance indicators.
On 4th July 2023, QAO again reported on Biosecurity Queensland’s programs, more specifically this time on the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program. QAO repeated its call for Biosecurity Queensland to be transparent about the rational of its planning decisions: noting that expert advice on the feasibility of eradicating the pest was varied. QAO again questioned the ability of the Biosecurity Online Resources and Information System (BORIS) to collect data on specific, measurable program performance indicators.
Nevertheless, on 25th July 2023, with no supporting data, Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industries Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner, announced a major change in the direction of the Fire Ant Program. After two failed eradication programs (2001-2016) and (2017- 2021), the Minister announced a four year ‘horseshoe’ containment program from 2023-27.
On 2nd August 2023, the Minister reported to the Estimates Committee in Parliament, again without supporting performance data, that the Fire Ant Program had prevented fire ants spreading in an arc, radiating out of the Port of Brisbane, to take in Mackay, Quilpie and Sydney. Apart from having no data on the ants’ rate of spread, QAO said it was unlikely the spread would be the same rate in all directions. They said it was more likely fire ants would spread along the highways running north, south and west out of Brisbane and in areas where the habitat was most suitable.
A make-or-break milestone Ministerial Council set for the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program in 2001 was a functioning information system to collect reliable and consistent performance data and to report against relevant, specific, measurable performance indicators. It never got one and the program has never reported against specific performance indicators. Nevertheless, for twenty-two years, program oversight committees have recommended State and Federal governments spend close to $1b of public money on a program that has no measures of performance. Oversight committees need to be held to account for the use of public money.
5th August 2023