MPs ‘not to blame’ for insulation scheme

The federal government has defended the role of its ministers in the management of the bungled home insulation scheme, after the release of a scathing report.

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An auditor-general’s report found risk management practices that should have been expected, were largely ignored.

It also found that as the Department of Environment rushed to meet its stimulus objectives, it became overwhelmed by claims of fraud and safety problems.

Parliamentary secretary Mark Dreyfus said the report did not make adverse findings against ministers, including Peter Garrett, who was responsible initially for the scheme.

“The government has learnt the lessons … and we are applying them in our remediation efforts,” he told reporters in Canberra shortly after the report was released on Friday.

Mr Garrett, now schools education minister, said he has always been confident of his role in the botched scheme.

“Always have been,” he told reporters.

Mr Dreyfus said the auditor-general identified significant deficiencies in the administration of the program, particularly the risk management practices applied by the department.

“These shortcomings are unacceptable to the government and we will continue our work to ensure they are addressed, and not repeated,” he said.

Mr Dreyfus said so far, the government had conducted more than 95,000 safety inspections under the winding down of the program.

The report had found the department was not ready for the huge demand for the scheme and had a lack of sufficiently trained staff.

“It’s very clear there were substantial deficiencies in this program,” he said.

“That’s what the auditor-general has confirmed and that’s indeed what (retired senior public servant) Allan Hawke confirmed with his report earlier in the year.”

It was pleasing the auditor-general had noted the department and the government were learning the lessons, Mr Dreyfus said.

“The problems that have occurred with the home insulation program last year have not been repeated with the home insulation safety program and the foil insulation safety program.”

The reason why there were no recommendations in the report was that the “problems have been identified and acted upon”.

“Safety has at all times been the government’s first priority in the wrap-up of the program and the rollout of household inspections.”

Mr Dreyfus rejected suggestions his senior minister Greg Combet was avoiding public scrutiny.

“I have the portfolio responsibility for winding down the scheme,” he said.