VET compliance audits: improving performance or problems being missed


In 2016-17 audits by regulator ASQA  identified 200 critical or serious compliance issues. In 2021-22 it found 15

The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (ROGS) shows that in 2021, more than one in every five dollars of recurrent government expenditure in VET went to non-TAFE providers. And that the share of recurrent funding going to TAFE decreased by 10 per cent between 2020 and 2021.

Interestingly it was some of the smaller jurisdictions where the level of funding to non-TAFE providers saw the greatest increases (Tasmania, Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia all saw increases of approximately 30 per cent or higher).

Queensland (+0.1 per cent) and Victoria (+3.0 per cent) had the lowest annual increases in funding to non-TAFE providers, but they currently allocate the highest share of funds to the non-TAFE sector (26 per cent in Victoria and 32 per cent in Queensland).

Regrettably in all jurisdictions except New South Wales and Tasmania, the level of government funding for VET has declined over the last decade.

Given the quantum of funds governments currently give to independent and community providers it was understandable that questions were asked in Senate Estimates last week about the lack of independent provider representation on Jobs and Skills Australia’s Consultative Forum.

It was also interesting that while senators had questions during Senate Estimates about TEQSA’s performance, they did not have any questions about ASQA’s performance (asking instead only a small number of questions about changes to ASQA’s regulatory responsibilities).

The Productivity Commission report looks at ASQA’s audit performance and it was noticeable that the number of compliance audits ASQA undertakes has declined in the last five years (albeit there have been changes to ASQA’s regulatory approach in that time):

* 545 RTOs audited in 2016-17 (13 per cent of all ASQA-regulated RTOs)

* 211 RTOs audited in 2021-22 (5.5 per cent)

Almost 200 of ASQA’s audits in 2016-17 identified critical or serious compliance issues (i.e. equivalent to approximately 5 per cent of all ASQA-regulated RTOs). In 2021-22 there were only 15 audits which found critical or serious compliance issues – equivalent to just 0.4 per cent of all RTOs.

The obvious question is whether compliance in VET has increased significantly, or in fact if the drop in the number of audits undertaken means non-compliance is going undetected?

Claire Field has previously worked in the TAFE and independent RTO sectors and assisted ASQA with early consultations on regulatory self-assurance. There is more analysis of the latest ROGS data on her website.