Eric Charlton

Eric Charlton

Former Minister for Transport

    Recruitment of Ross Drabble is an overall Govt strategy to streamline Main Roads

    9/01/1998 12:00 AM



    Transport Minister Eric Charlton said today the recruitment of former Westrail chief executive Ross Drabble to head up Main Roads was part of an overall Government strategy to streamline the agency.


    Under Ross Drabble, a paramount function of Main Roads would be to oversee all contracts and implement a fully in-house structure to manage and supervise quality of the State's road network.


    "Many senior people in Main Roads have been asking for such a system for years, but the practice of calling in outside consultants to supervise private contractors has been the vogue," Mr Charlton said.


    "Ross Drabble is making changes at Main Roads and he has my total support as he moves to deliver new efficiencies and value-for-money practices," Mr Charlton said.


    "As Commissioner at Westrail, he built an organisation that sets the national benchmark for a government rail system and I am totally confident his review of Main Roads will identify areas that need improvement," he said.


    Mr Charlton said part of the streamlining process would be to ensure Main Roads took full responsibility for overseeing all roadworks by bringing supervision in-house.


    "The buck must stop with Main Roads and the past practice of handing out supervision work to consultant engineers will change," he said.


    "The agency must be responsible for 100 per cent of the supervision task, whether it is building the road itself or if the job is carried out by the private sector.


    "It is paramount that the construction quality of the State's road network is never compromised," he said.


    Mr Charlton said he supported Mr Drabble's concerns about the improper use of an internal document criticising a restructuring of the organisation.


    "In-house executive opinions canvassed by Mr Drabble are not for public discussion because they form only part of a whole range of interim views he is trying to get on the table," he said.


    "If points raised in the document are valid they will no doubt be discussed further and considered in the decision-making process.


    "The broad-brush viewpoints expressed in the document may or may not stand up to close scrutiny.


    "The person who saw fit to prematurely make the material public is engaging in improper and mischievous conduct and Ross Drabble has correctly stated that this sort of thing is not going to be tolerated," he said.


    "Private contractors have expressed their concern to my office that the contents of the report potentially tarnish their reputations.


    "Private contractors have been building 70 per cent of the State's road network for many years and have been competing vigorously with each other to deliver the highest-quality work.


    "Poor road-builders simply cannot win tenders if the supervisory competence of Main Roads is kept at the highest level possible and if all overseeing work is kept in-house.


    "It is Main Roads' job to set the specifications and ensure those specifications are met.


    "Amongst the primary tasks of Main Roads executives is to ensure that the supervisors under their control are kept up to the mark. If they are not, then there is no place for them in the organisation.


    "It is not about numbers on a payroll, it is about having the most competent people in the right place and keeping the onus on key executives to perform their roles and take final responsibility," he said.


    Mr Charlton said that Main Roads had a strong reputation for managing the State's road network. Streamlining the operation by making executives take full responsibility for their sectors would enhance this reputation even further.


    Media contact: Doug Cunningham (08) 9321 7333