Engineer at centre of probe into non-compliant Darwin buildings still has valid registration


May 02, 2019 07:01:07

The structural engineer at the centre of an investigation that has forced about 200 Darwin homeowners to rectify their properties is still registered as an approved certifier of construction work in the Northern Territory.

Key points:

  • John Scott from JWS Constructions was the engineer who signed off on all nine buildings
  • He is expected to be referred to the Building Practitioners Board for an inquiry into alleged misconduct
  • His registration as a certifying structural engineer is valid until August 2020

Nine multi-storey residential complexes built in Darwin and Palmerston over the past five years have been found to contain non-compliant concrete structures known as “transfer slabs”, according to a review by the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics.

While the buildings have not been deemed unsafe, the department told about 200 unit owners they must engage an independent structural engineer to assess and repair the problems to ensure the buildings meet Australian standards.

A letter sent by the department to affected owners names John Scott of JWS Constructions Pty Ltd as the structural engineer who approved all nine buildings.

In a separate media release that did not name Mr Scott, the department said the structural engineer in question would soon be referred to the Building Practitioners Board “for an inquiry in alleged misconduct pertaining to a pattern of non-compliance with the National Construction Code”.

Mr Scott did not respond to the ABC’s request for comment.

According to the Government’s online register of building practitioners, Mr Scott has been registered as a certifying structural engineer in the Territory since 2006.

His registration is valid until August 2020.

The department’s director of building control, Mark Meldrum, said it would be up to the Building Practitioners Board to determine whether Mr Scott should face sanctions.

“Once the practitioner is referred to the board the practitioner will be given natural justice to respond to the allegations,” Mr Meldrum said.

“And I understand until a decision has been made on the inquiry, the practitioner is able to practice.”

Questions about Mr Scott’s work first came to the attention of the department in 2017, when a complaint was lodged by someone at a building site who was concerned about the design of a transfer slab.

Since then the department has used an independent engineering consultant to conduct a desktop review of other buildings Mr Scott worked on.

The department advised Infrastructure Minister Eva Lawler about the issue early last month, and unit owners were informed on Tuesday.

While buildings in the Territory are given final approval by qualified certifiers, those certifiers rely on the work of structural engineers.

“The structural engineer has the responsibility for the structural elements of the building,” Mr Meldrum explained.

“The building certifier takes the structural engineer’s approval, or certification, as given. And then they give that approval to the overall building.”

He acknowledged that some Australian jurisdictions required greater oversight of building practitioners, including peer reviews and random audits.

The Infrastructure Minister said she would consider legislative changes to bolster the oversight regime.

“Once we’ve got through this stage, we will work with the department about any steps forward that need to be done around making sure there is greater confidence in the building industry,” Ms Lawler said.







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