Green Loans debacle

A local woman who spent $3000 in training and start up costs to be an assessor for the federal governments Green Loans program said she felt like she had been sucked in by a Nigerian email scam.

“I took this on in good faith and it does say in the contract that there is no guarantee of income, but because it was the Australian government and it seemed like a reasonable scheme, I thought it was an OK gamble, but they haven’t got the systems in place to make it viable,” she said.

The Green Loans scheme was set up in July to encourage people to get an audit of their energy use and apply for interest free loans of up to $10,000 to install solar power and water-saving products. The government had budgeted for the program to run for four years with 1500 assessors, but over 10,000 people signed up and continuing funding for the scheme has been in doubt.

The woman, who didn’t wish to be named, said assessors have not been able to get through on the phone to make bookings.

“Even if go out and generate assessments, you can’t book them in. When you submit assessments, the system keeps telling you the booking number is wrong. But that’s not the case; the system is just not coping.

“They have effectively privatised all the risk. The assessors have all paid for their own training and set up costs so there has been no imperative to fix the system. If you look at the My School website they were able to fix it on the day... If we were public servants this would have been fixed. The assessors are carrying all the costs and the responses we have got have been pathetic.” On Tuesday Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced there would be an independent inquiry into all contractual obligations and procurement processes in the Green Loans program.

“It’s clear that some elements of the program are not working as effectively as they should. In particular, it is clear there is room for improvement in relation to the call centre for assessor and householder bookings as well as to speed up the issuing of household assessment reports,” Mr Garrett said.

But Greens Senator Christine Milne, who has been pushing the issue through senate estimates hearings, said the announcement was “a thinly disguised move to take pressure off his department... to avert the threat of an Auditor General’s investigation.”

“Thousands of people invested their savings in setting up small businesses based on Mr Garrett’s promises and his mismanagement is now leaving them high and dry,” Ms Milne said.

“The Green Loans Scheme is an excellent idea that has turned into an utter debacle through gross mismanagement by Peter Garrett’s department. It is his responsibility to fix it. Whether because of incompetence, lack of interest or deliberate design, the Green Loans Scheme has now joined the rooftop solar program, the insulation roll-out and the Renewable Energy Target as strong programs gone badly wrong.”


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