Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority faces probe after audit

The pesticides authority is facing another probe as it moves to Armidale, after a parliamentary inquiry began looking into the agency.

A national audit report found in June last year that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority had failed to prepare for the disruption its forced move to northern NSW caused, a criticism that Labor branded unfair as the agency tried to follow a government order to relocate from Canberra. 

Parliament's house standing committee on agriculture has started an inquiry into the agency's efforts to adopt the audit office's recommendations, including to improve risk management, and governance and performance measures.

Barnaby Joyce has driven the Coalition push to relocate the pesticides authority. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Barnaby Joyce has driven the Coalition push to relocate the pesticides authority. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The APVMA declined to comment, but committee chair and Liberal MP Rick Wilson said it would focus on the agency's progress since the Australian National Audit Office's report. 

"Given the importance of these reforms to Australia's agricultural sector, it is vital that the APVMA acts quickly on those recommendations."

The audit report said the authority failed to consider the risk staff would resign over its controversial move to Armidale - championed by New England MP and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce - and was unprepared to manage the problem.

Another Labor-Greens dominated inquiry focused on the relocation and found in June the "political self-interest" of the deputy Prime Minister had driven the move and called for it to stop.

The authority, where staff departures reached nearly 20 per cent in 2015-16, reported it was struggling to find regulatory scientists to replace those walking out the door since the Coalition government decision to move it in November 2016, the auditor's report said. 

Labor said it was unfair of the auditor to scold the pesticides authority for being unprepared for the fallout from the move, because its former boss warned the government about the consequences for staff numbers.