Local wardens lack ‘basic soft skills’, NAO report finds

NAO expresses concern over the fact that LESA relies solely on the revenue it generates from traffic fines

A lack of community officers and the absence of public funding towards LESA have been flagged in an audit report undertaken by the National Audit Office.

The purpose of the audit was the determine whether the agency is suitably geared to perform its traffic enforcement function adequately.

The NAO raised concern over the absence of a financial allocation from central government, which means that LESA has to rely solely on the revenue it generates from the issuance of contraventions in order to finance its operations. 

"This is compounded by the legal obligation of the agency to redistribute any net surpluses among local councils," the audit team noted.

NAO found that the agency has been unable to recruit the number of community officers (COs) it contends are required. However, it pointed out that the exact quantity of LESA's ideal complement, and allocation across the country, has not been validated through a comprehensive study. 

"Such an exercise would ascertain a more efficient, effective and risk-oriented allocation of officers," the office noted.

NAO also highlighted concerns on the quality of some of LESA’s community officers, particularly their lack of basic soft skills.

"As Community Officers are the primary point of contact between the agency and the general public, this Office feels that this issue is having a negative impact on LESA’s projected image. This concern is further compounded as a number of these individuals also lack basic technical skills and do not exhibit the willingness to address such shortcomings."

Despite an extensive information system, there is no systematic or formal process by which community officers are monitored. The audit team remarked that the monitoring undertaking could be more analytical.

"The audit team found that significant gaps prevailed in LESA’s coverage over the local arterial road network, insofar as speed cameras are concerned," NAO said.

"Furthermore, this Office observed that the agency has as yet never commissioned a study which accurately determines all the areas in which CCTV or speed cameras are required on a national level."

NAO commended LESA for commissioning a Cost Benefit Analysis to determine whether the current arrangement through which CCTV and speed cameras are procured presents good value of money compared with other options. 

"Notwithstanding, NAO notes that, as at time of writing, the results of this CBA (which concluded that an alternative arrangement would present better value for money) have not as yet been fully implemented, even after a year had already elapsed since its completion, thereby possibly eroding this exercise’s validity."

However, NAO remains hopeful. The office said that LESA is "an entity with the potential to change" so long as the concerns outlined are duly addressed by the agency. 

The report was presented to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Anġlu Farrugia today. 

 

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