VBA response to recent media enquiries

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) was recently approached by media outlets to provide comment on a range of matters. The response the VBA provided can be found below.

In 2020, the VBA undertook a disciplinary action process in respect to the work of Obaid Naqebullah as the building practitioner responsible for the construction of 81 sole occupancy units in Dixon Street, Clayton, for which his company, Shangri-La Construction Pty Ltd was the contractor. The builder had placed combustible cladding on the external wall and had used non-compliant materials for internal separations which were required to be fire rated.

A VBA decision in August 2020 to suspend Mr Naqebullah’s registration for three months, to reprimand him and to impose penalties of $20,000 was the subject of an application for merit review in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). VCAT varied the VBA’s decision, to remove the suspension, to increase the penalty to $25,000, to undertake training and to personally attend mandatory stage inspections for all Shangri-La building sites for 12 months. The VCAT decision was made in August 2022 and the reasons have been published. Please see Naqebullah v Victorian Building Authority [2022] VCAT 896.

In 2018, changes to the law allowed for corporate registration. Shangri-La obtained registration in the class of Domestic Builder – Unlimited (DB-U), with Mr Naqebullah as nominee director. The nominee director is the building practitioner who takes personal responsibility for the work of a company holding registration. Shangri-La is now in liquidation. The VBA has received complaints from the owners of other properties built by Shangri-La and investigation of those matters is ongoing. The VBA does not comment on matters under investigation.

The use of virtual plumbing audits by the VBA forms part of an expansion to the capability of the Plumbing Audit Program. Virtual audits complement the work VBA plumbing auditors do on the ground, with site visits still necessary for a range of works, including roofing, drainage and carbon monoxide testing. The VBA launched virtual plumbing audits at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when we sought to continue important plumbing audit work, while balancing the safety of the community, plumbing practitioners and VBA auditors. Where suitable, the VBA continues to undertake virtual plumbing audits, and maintains a presence on the ground at construction sites across Victoria.

The VBA Inspection Services team includes highly skilled and experienced plumbing experts who undertake inspections and audits of both domestic and commercial sites. Mechanical Services plumbing work involves mechanically heating, cooling and ventilating residential and commercial buildings. It also includes plumbing work for medical gas equipment. The work is highly specialised and technical. The VBA continues to invest in the professional development of our Inspection Services team, to equip them with the knowledge and skills required to competently undertake inspections.

All VBA staff have access to counselling via our Employee Assistance Program and this is promoted widely throughout the organisation. We continue to support our people and embed values and behaviours that ensure the VBA is a safe workplace. The VBA works with its Audit and Inspection teams on performance expectations.