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Regulatory compliance review questions and answers

On 15 October 2018 the NZ Transport Agency announced an extensive review of more than 850 open compliance files.  We also announced that we are taking a tougher approach to enforcement and strengthening our regulatory functions.

The most urgent compliance files have now all been reviewed. These urgent files relate to potentially serious non-compliance safety issues where an individual or operator may not be following the rules and their responsibilities as set out in legislation.  

We have cast a wide net to review files covering all regulatory areas for which the Transport Agency is responsible. This includes Warrant of Fitness (WoF) and Certificate of Fitness (CoF) providers, Transport Service Licences, heavy vehicle driver licensing, course providers and Heavy Vehicle Certification.

What is the regulatory compliance review?

The review follows concerns that were raised by the Transport Agency’s Board Chairman around compliance. The Board engaged law firm Meredith Connell to review more than 850 open files with the intention of prioritising those that may be a risk to safety.

Compliance files relate to potential issues where an individual or operator may not be following the rules and their responsibilities as set out in legislation. Open files are ones that are under investigation by the Transport Agency.

The Transport Agency has taken a firm and prudent approach, casting a wide net to review files from all regulatory areas for which we are responsible. This encompasses issues from the very minor to the very serious.

Meredith Connell now leads the regulatory function within the Transport Agency.

What is the scope of the review?

Meredith Connell and the Transport Agency are looking into active files where Transport Agency inspectors had identified concern, including heavy vehicle certification, Warrant of Fitness (WoF) and Certificate of Fitness (CoF) inspections, course providers and for people licenced to work on the roads – such as commercial drivers.

When will the review be complete?

This review is ongoing.  

What led to the regulatory compliance review?

In the past the Transport Agency’s approach to regulation was through ongoing education to address and remedy compliance issues.

It has become clear that this approach has been neither sufficiently robust nor swift enough to ensure the highest levels of regulatory compliance. We have been too reliant on self-regulation and have not devoted enough attention or resource to ensuring compliance.

We need to do better, and we need to do it now. That is why we are accountable and taking a tougher enforcement approach.

Safety is the Transport Agency’s top priority.

Why is Meredith Connell now leading the regulatory function within the Transport Agency?

The Transport Agency Board engaged law firm Meredith Connell, initially to review the open files. Meredith Connell has expertise in regulatory compliance and performance.

The Board was sufficiently concerned about the Transport Agency’s regulatory performance that it further engaged Meredith Connell to lead the compliance function within the Transport Agency until a time that the Board is satisfied that compliance is performing to the standard required.

Can you assure people that they are safe on the road?

Safety is our top priority. We can assure people that we are urgently addressing these issues and are taking all steps necessary to fix this problem.

We are applying a risk-based approach to addressing any non-compliance where public safety is a concern. Where suspension is necessary to ensure public safety, we are acting.

It is fair to say that no regulatory agency can ever guarantee that every vehicle on the road is up to standard 100% of the time.

While non-compliance is a very serious issue, it’s important to note that the number of open files is very small compared to the overall number of operators who perform a regulatory compliance role in the industry.

What are the next steps?

Meredith Connell has reviewed priority files, and the Transport Agency has taken formal action against more than 70 and continues to investigate most of the remainder.  Work continues on the other files that form the full set of 850-plus open compliance files.

You can expect to see future announcements about enforcement action taken to ensure regulatory compliance.

How can I report any concerns I have?

You can help us identify non-compliance, and help ensure public safety, by reporting your concerns. If you have any information about non-compliance, call 0800 468 244.

This could include, but is not limited to:

  • issues with warrants or certificates of fitness (WoFs or CoFs) and the inspectors or inspecting organisations
  • concerns about heavy vehicle certifications
  • transport operators and their drivers not following the relevant rules
  • concerns about approved course providers not complying with the requirements of providing education and assessment for drivers sitting a range of licences.

The phone line is free, anonymous and available 24/7. It’s operated by independent charity Crimestoppers, who run integrity lines for a range of organisations, and staffed by specially trained operators. They’ll pass on all information to the appropriate team to follow up and we’ll ensure all information is reviewed and acted on appropriately where possible.

How can I keep informed about the regulatory compliance review?

We will keep the regulatory compliance review web page updated with information and links to media releases on compliance actions we have taken.

Why has a Queens Counsel (QC) been engaged?

The Transport Agency has engaged Kristy McDonald QC to independently investigate and establish the facts of Dargaville Diesel Specialists (suspended in August and outside the open compliance files now under review) and identify the specific failings of the Transport Agency’s performance as a regulator and make recommendations on any further steps we should take.  When complete the report will be released publicly.

What can you tell us about the Ministry of Transport review?

This review (the Review) was announced by the Minister of Transport.  It will provide advice to the Minister of Transport on the performance of the Transport Agency’s regulation function. The Review will undertake an assessment of all components of the Transport Agency’s regulatory capability and delivery. The Review is being conducted under section 132 of the Crown Entities Act 2004.

The objectives of this Review are to:

  • form a clear assessment of whether there are systemic deficiencies within the Transport Agency’s regulatory capability and function, and if so, to what extent they contributed to the recent performance issues
  • make recommendations on the improvements in capability required to address any deficiency in the Transport Agency’s regulatory capability and function, and appropriate accountability
  • provide the public with confidence that any regulatory deficiencies in the Transport Agency are appropriately identified and addressed, with safety of the public being the overriding priority.

The review is intended to produce its findings and recommendations by March 2019.