CASA will make changes to its approach to aviation surveillance after accepting all seven recommendations from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) audit.
The audit, which concluded with a report to CASA in mid May, was the first time the Auditor General had conducted an audit on the aviation regulator since 2010.
ANAO found that CASA's surveillance procedures were only partly effective, concluding among other things that the regulator was lacking in its approach to risk assessment.
"While CASA has appropriate policies and procedures and largely implements its surveillance functions, its planning and conduct of surveillance activities is partly effective," the report concludes.
"The appropriateness of CASA’s approach to surveillance is diminished as CASA does not have an overarching strategic plan and its approach to prioritising surveillance does not incorporate risk likelihood or clearly specify why it does not.
"CASA’s risk approach is not applied consistently across all sectors and industry delegates and there has not been full compliance with conflict of interest declaration requirements by CASA staff.
The ANAO audit found that although CASA’s surveillance approach largely complied with Australia’s international obligations, the regulator's system of monitoring compliance and reviewing its planning and conduct of surveillance activities was only partly effective.
It also that CASA has no quality assurance process in place for reviewing the quality of surveillance activities, and there has been no plan developed for reviewing the National Oversight Plan.
The seven recommendations, all of which CASA has accepted are:
- formalise and document the National Oversight Plan
- improve the approach to risk by incorporating risk likelihood or establish a basis for not considering risk, and apply the risk framework consistently
- strengthen the approach to obtaining conflict of interest declarations from CASA staff
- implement a process for tracking and reporting on surveillance referrals to enforcement
- Reviw the National Oversight Plan and national surveillance selection process
- improve reporting to the board on surveillance activities to increase transparency
- improve reporting to the minister on surveillance activities to increase transparency.
CASA responded to the ANAO by welcoming the recommendations, but noted that the basis for some of the conclusions seemed unclear.
"CASA agrees with the seven recommendations and is pleased they complement changes made in 2018 to the way we conduct our surveillance activities as well as our new national operating model established in 2021.
"This is recognition of CASA's ongoing commitment to improve the way we plan and conduct our surveillance activities in support of aviation safety in Australia.
"While CASA fully supports the recommendations, there are instances where CASA considers additional context could have clarified the basis on which a conclusion was reached and also avoided potentially incorrect conclusions being drawn by the reader.
"In particular, CASA notes that given that the ANAO uses different audit methodologies to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), CASA does not consider the ANAO's findings in any way invalidate the outcome of ICAO's 2017 assessment, which concluded that Australia's effective implementation of ICAO standards and recommended practices related to surveillance obligations was 96.25%."
The ANAO report also noted that CASA's surveillance activities were well down in 2019-20, with 230 out of 306 (75%) planned audits not happening due to COVID-19 restrictions. By contrast, CASA conducted 769 surveillance activities in 2020-21 with 922 safety findings issued.
The full CASA audit report is on the ANAO website.