The Commission met 16 times in 2007/08 including holding one closed hearing, approving 21 preliminary reports prior to consultation, and closing 24 investigations (inquiries).
There were 1189 notifications made to the Commission from the Regulators, leading to 27 new investigations opened. That is one investigation opened for every forty four notifications. The number of notifications represents a 40% (342) increase on the number of notifications made to the Commission last year. The most common notified events to the Commission are airspace incursions from the aviation mode, derailments from the rail mode, and personal injury from the marine mode. Occurrences notified to the Commission are not necessarily the most common accident or incident type occurring in the transport modes. This is because only accident and some types of incidents, as defined in the regulatory statutes, are required to be notified to the Commission. So where the Commission is reporting on the most frequent notifications made to it, the most that can be construed from the information is an indication of the degree of risk of harm to people and damage to property attached to the occurrence type.
The most frequent types of occurrences set before the Commission for a determination on were landing incidents in the Air mode, braking irregularities, collisions and derailments in the Rail mode, and capsize, collisions, and loss of directional control in the Marine mode.
There were fewer investigations opened than planned (27/35) because of cost pressures arising from three complex inquiries involving one air case, and two marine cases. All three cases were resource intensive in terms of investigator time and specialist services required. Activity levels were adjusted in marine and rail modes so investigators could properly attend to the more complex cases, and in the case of the Rail team, complete outstanding cases. While fewer than planned inquiries ( Reports produced) were completed the number of cases completed increased on last year – 24 compared with 15. The year ended with 39 open cases compared with last year’s 52.
In terms of financial performance 2007/08, it has been a challenging period because of the previously mentioned cost pressures arising from the complex inquiries requiring reallocation of resources. Each case required specialist analysis which combined driving a greater than forecasted operating deficit at the end of year with the prospect of further eroding the Commission’s cash reserves and working capital.
In spite of the challenges presented by the high cost inquiries, the Commission ended the financial year with a small deficit of $2.3k on total revenue of $2.81m. This result is $4.3k less than the budgeted surplus. This was achieved by strong fiscal management, adopting a conservative approach to allocating resources and scaling back new investigations from the first quarter where an expected $95k year end deficit was forecast. This approach saw the Commission improve its performance from the second quarter through to year end by $92k.
Net cash flow from operating activities is $38k compared to -$128k in the previous financial year. The improved operating cash flow is a result of the tightened fiscal management, including lower discretionary spending. The improved operating cash flow and a crown injection of $100k, in part to help meet the high cost inquiries, allowed the Commission to build its working capital by $229k at the end of the 2007/08 financial year.
The Commission made considerable investment in its people for 2007/08 contributing $84k to support staff training and development. This is part of a broader programme to build and maintain capability in what is a specific knowledge service.
An on-going focus on inquiry methods including site visits, desk top exercises and developing different forms of reports contributed to a more favourable bottom line. We are now well placed to focus our efforts in the coming year on improving our services by strengthening our corporate capability.