An external audit of TasTAFE has revealed best practice recruitment processes have not been followed on a number of occasions.
The long-awaited external audit also backs up damning findings revealed in an Integrity Commission report, against former chief executive Stephen Conway.
The independent investigative audit, was tabled in Parliament by Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff on Thursday, after a year.
It investigated nine areas of TasTAFE’s governance operations: recruitment, credit card use, travel and entertainment, conflicts of interest, contract services, remuneration, human resources, misconduct and personal benefits.
The Integrity Commision’s report, which was also tabled in Parliament last year, detailed its investigation of a “complaint of an alleged conflict of interest against senior executive officers of TasTAFE”.
A complaint was made in February 2016, which alleged Mr Conway “provided favourable treatment” to his friend Lori Hocking, who was, at the time, a senior executive at TasTAFE.
Both Mr Conway and Ms Hocking have since left TasTAFE. Mr Conway has been replaced in the role by Jenny Dodd.
The investigative audit, conducted by independent auditors WLF ranked its findings into the report as ‘high’ due to the seriousness.
“The findings from the Integrity Commission are confirmed by this audit and therefore the findings of the report are rated ‘high.’
The audit report was due to be released on June 4.
“This investigative audit has noted a number of serious compliance exceptions within the sample selected in relation to compliance with the State Service Act and the employment directions,” the report read.
The report said issues identified in the report were “serious in nature and not confined to any one recruitment process or segment of employees.”
Recruitment had the highest number of recommendations out of the nine areas of improvement identified in the audit.
TasTAFE chief executive officer Jenny Dodd said TasTAFE had accepted all recommendations made in the report.
“The audit found that overall TasTAFE had contemporary policies and practices in many of the areas it reviewed,” she said.
“However, it also identified that there was a lack of leadership within TasTAFE in respect to monitoring the adoption of these policies and procedures.”
She said a number of measures had already been put in place to address the recommendations made in the audit report.
Some of those include providing ethics training to all managers and strengthened processes around recruitment and selection.
Mr Rockliff said all measures were expected to by implemented by the end of the year.
“The report highlights the nature of an organisation in transition, and with a new outstanding Chair and CEO, we have strong leadership and governance of TasTAFE. I am confident, that through this, all necessary work to implement report recommendations can be done,” he said.
“I wish to highlight the professionalism of both the auditors and TasTAFE staff throughout the audit process and in promptly moving to implement recommendations.”
Ms Dodd, who has been in her role for three months, said the report was an opportunity for the organisation to “look inwardly.”
“We deliver first-class learning for teachers and students, we listen to what industry needs and make sure we are delivering what they need,” she said.
“What these reports have done is put a lens on our business and make us look inwardly so we can move forward.”
Ms Dodd said she was excited the core part of the business, the experience of teaching students, had not been compromised.
“Our goal is to be together as one organisation to continue to do what we do well, that is to lead the development of skills for the Tasmanian workforce,” she said.
A number of new executive team members have been appointed.
Ms Dodd said one of them would be located in the North of the state and will be reponsible for executive business growth.
“I am confident those leaders will be able to lead going forward to where we need to be.
“We continue to have fabulous staff who continue to lead and drive student experience and talk to industry.”
Ms Dodd said the report had been a “disruptive process” for many staff but commended the way they had handled it.
TasTAFE has about 800 staff, with many of them part time.
Implementing the recommendations has cost TasTAFE $240,000 after it exhausted its original “audit budget.”
Ms Dodd said $90,000 had been allocated as the audit budget but an additional $150,000 of funds had also been used.
It is unclear if further funds will be needed for other measures.
Some of the measures include recruitment and an increase in staff, as well as wide dissemination of education material to improve knowledge of processes and policy, particularly around credit cards, among staff members.
Australian Education Union president Helen Richardson welcomed the release.
“This is a good step forward in returning TasTAFE to what it does best, high-quality teaching and training,” Ms Richardson said.
Master Plumbers Tasmania said the release of the report was the start of a bright and robust future.
“While we accept that there have been issues that have brought TasTAFE into the spotlight for the wrong reasons we are confident with the changes will result in reinstating TasTAFE as the preferred training provider for the building industry.”