Australia’s aged care sector has been under intense scrutiny in recent years. The pandemic in particular brought to light many of the issues that have been plaguing the system for decades now.
Despite the government affirming that they are dedicated to addressing the issues faced by both staff and residents, it does not appear that the review process has been as stringent as needed.
Four consultancy firms that were paid over $40 million to audit quality and safety in aged care homes have had their reports rejected on a number of occasions because they did not meet the standards required by the federal government.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSA) is responsible for auditing residential facilities to ensure they are meeting mandated standards. However, since 2021, the ACQSA has outsourced a significant portion of its auditing work to third parties.
Four consultancy firms were contracted to audit aged care homes; KPMG, SAI Global, RSM and HDAA. They have since been paid over $40 million for their work. Last financial year, the commission conducted 1,457 site audits across Australia with 970 of the audits (67%) being conducted by third-party providers.
Earlier this year, significant concerns were raised about the outsourcing by David Tune, a former public servant who conducted an independent enquiry into the matter.
“I consider this is a core function of the commission and that the high proportion of assessments undertaken by third-party provider assessors, represents a significant risk for the commission.
“As deeds of offer with third-party suppliers are reviewed, the commission should seek to reach a better balance to ensure more activity is brought in-house and undertaken by its permanent quality assessor workforce,” Tune’s report said.
The Tune report also revealed the commission created a “dedicated quality assurance team” to support contractors. This was because “several suppliers underestimated the complexities, volume and standards or work involved in report preparation and gathering/documenting the evidence required by the commission to make a decision on compliance”.
The suppliers were not named in the report. Said plainly, Tune was sceptical that the suppliers (the third party providers) had the sufficient expertise to accurately judge whether aged care homes were compliant or not.
According to The Guardian, the senate inquiry has recently revealed that Tune’s findings were correct and that the quality of work was, on occasion, insufficient to meet what was required of the firms by the government.
“There have been instances where we have declined to accept one of their reports and have required that they undertake further work on it in order to meet our quality benchmarks,” said the aged care quality and safety commissioner, Janet Anderson.
Anderson said that the commission was now reviewing their use of third party providers.