Audit Criticises Emergency Volunteer Systems
6 February 2014 at 2:03 pm
Two of Victoria’s major emergency services agencies — the Country Fire Authority and the State Emergency Service – have come under fire from the State’s Auditor General over their handling of volunteers.
In a report to Parliament by the State Auditor General, it’s claimed that both agencies have flawed procedures for analysing their volunteers’ skills and qualifications.
Auditor General John Doyle released the report as Victoria commemorates the fifth anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires saying it is a sobering but timely reminder of the crucial role that volunteers perform.
Both agencies rely predominantly on volunteer workforces and the audit found that both have problems around training, support and understanding the number of volunteers they have.
The audit found that there are issues with both CFA and SES’s workforce planning.
“The CFA does not know how many volunteers it needs and SES does not accurately know how many it has,” the Auditor General said.
“Further, both agencies’ procedures for analysing their volunteers’ skills and qualifications are flawed, which hinders their ability to identify workforce skills gaps.”
The audit report said that both agencies’ assessments of current workforce capacity overestimated their emergency response capabilities, meaning neither agency could be assured that it had the capacity to respond to incidents when they occurred.
It said the CFA and SES’s decentralised approaches to the recruitment, training and deployment of volunteers means neither agency could assure itself that these activities were effectively addressing workforce needs.
“The CFA is in the process of improving its support to volunteers through a coordinated set of programs aimed at assisting with volunteer recruitment, support and retention. However, SES’s volunteer support programs are piecemeal and lack an overarching strategy,” Auditor General Doyle said.
“In addition to supporting their volunteers, CFA and SES must be able to assure themselves that they have sufficient volunteers with the skills needed to respond to incidents.
“I have recommended that both agencies evaluate their volunteer support systems and processes, and explore opportunities to collaborate with each other.
“Both agencies have accepted my recommendations and I am confident that SES will be greatly assisted by CFA, which is making strong progress towards its volunteerism support goals,” he said.
“Given the important role of volunteers, it is essential that CFA and SES provide adequate support to their volunteers during incident responses and with day-to-day activities such training, administrative support and counselling.”
The most recent Victorian Government estimate of the value of volunteering in Victoria was made in 2006 and placed the value about $16.4 billion per year.
The full report can be found HERE.