Data reporting – frequently asked questions

This page is being regularly updated with new questions from certifiers and councils.

General questions

Why must certifying authorities report data about building certification?

The new data reporting requirements for certifying authorities will provide the NSW Government with centralised, real-time information about development.

Benefits of this include:

  • more targeted and effective, evidence-based regulation
  • safer and more compliant buildings, enabled by data-sharing with local councils to increase their ability to monitor developments in their area and take action if a development breaches legislative requirements
  • increased community confidence in the certification system and the professionalism of certifiers
  • better dissemination of data across government, leading to smarter service delivery. Currently, development data reported by councils to the Australian Bureau of Statistics is inaccessible by the NSW Government.
What data needs to be reported?

The pdf Building Professionals (Provision of Information) Order 2018 (PDF | 109.2K) sets the required data fields.

Alternatively, download a pdf summary of the required data fields (PDF | 198.8K).

How will certification data be used?

The data will be used to:

  • streamline regulation where appropriate
  • improve the evidence base for more effective regulation
  • assist councils in monitoring development in their local area.

Note: the data will not be made publicly available (see ‘Who will access the data and how is my privacy protected?’ below).

How does reporting of certification data relate to the Planning Portal?

The reporting of certification data and the NSW Planning Portal complements each other, rather than duplicate information.

Data gathered by the two systems differ, besides some basic data needed to verify the location, dates and responsible parties for a development.

Planning Portal users will be able to find out what planning controls relate to a property, and submit and track applications for development. By contrast, certification data reporting covers certificates issued, critical stage inspections and other important details such as performance solutions which are not captured in the Planning Portal.

Information for councils and certifiers

Which categories of certifiers are required to report data?

Only category A1, A2 and A3 certifiers are being required to report data, and only when appointed as principal certifying authority (PCA). All other categories of certifiers do not need to report data, but must still meet their existing legislated recordkeeping requirements, which have not changed.

Certifiers with multiple categories of accreditation including A1-A3 only need to report work done under their A1-A3 accreditation, and only when appointed as PCA.

Local councils and accredited bodies corporate are also required to report data for their PCA work.

Example: if you are an A2 certifier who carries out a critical stage inspection on behalf of the PCA of a development, you do not have to report data for that inspection.

What should I do now?

The three data reporting options are available now, and some certifiers and councils are already reporting data.

Certifying authorities should already have decided which reporting option will suit them and be making preparations. You can start reporting whenever you’re ready.

Email updates for certifiers will be sent to the address in the online certifier register, so be sure to keep your contact details up to date with the Board. You can also subscribe to our email newsletter Cert Alert for updates.

When will data reporting become mandatory?

Reporting will be mandatory from 1 July 2018 and the Board’s focus for the first six months from this date will be an education focus.

The mandatory reporting date follows the current voluntary reporting phase to help certifiers and councils get used to the changes.

Certifying authorities should already have decided which reporting option will suit them and be making preparations. You can start reporting whenever you’re ready.

What works do NOT need to be reported?

Certification data for the following do not need to be reported:

  • Swimming pools
  • Demolition, when there is no building work (i.e. the development only involves demolition)
  • Subdivision, when there is no building work
  • Crown building work
  • Mining development.

Certifiers’ existing recordkeeping requirements for all their certification work continue to apply.

Do I have to report pre-existing work from 1 July?

No. The mandatory data reporting requirement is only for building work that commences on or after 1 July 2018. Pre-existing PCA appointments do not have to be reported.

Keep in mind however that if you start reporting data before 1 July, you must continue to report data for those projects.

How much does it cost?

The CertAbility mobile app is free to download.

API and SFTP users should consult their IT support and/or external service provider to implement any necessary software and/or hardware upgrades (including possible changes to existing data collection and reporting processes). Costs will vary depending on the nature and extent of the changes. It is free to access the Government's API and SFTP channels.

The Building Professionals Board is negotiating with providers of specialised certification software to ensure updated software is available before the mandatory reporting date. Software providers are also encouraged to engage with their clients to help them make the required changes.

Which reporting option should I choose?

There are three reporting options, each designed for a different type of certification practice.

Find out which option will suit your certification practice.

Can I change my reporting option?

Yes, but keep in mind:

  • it may incur a cost (e.g. to install or modify software, or retrain staff)
  • existing certification projects must be finished using the same reporting option that each was started with.

It’s recommended to choose the reporting option that best meets your needs from the start.

You cannot change options midway for an individual project (but see below about transferring work). For example, if you use the app to report a critical stage inspection, you can’t use the API to report the next inspection for that development.

How to transfer your works to a new reporting option

First, contact the Board asking to have all your building works transferred.

If works are not transferred properly, it may create a duplicate record if you submit data for an existing work using a different reporting method. Duplicate records will impact the accuracy of the database. For regulatory decision making, it is important to have data as accurate as possible.

Can I use more than one reporting option?

Yes, but you may only use one reporting option for each individual development. If you submit data for a building via a particular option (e.g. the app), you must continue with this option until the work is complete (i.e. a final occupation certificate is issued).

You may however change options as your business needs change (see previous question).

Each reporting option suits a different business model, so it’s unlikely you’ll want or need to use more than one option at the same time. Find out how to choose the right data reporting option for you.

Can office staff report data on a certifier’s behalf?

Yes. A non-accredited person, such as a certifier’s colleague or spouse, can enter data on behalf of a certifier.

The PCA is responsible for data reporting done on his/her behalf.

Note: Others are not authorised to use a certifier’s CertAbility app account. Each person has their own CertAbility account.

Which software providers have updated their software to enable data reporting?

Other products will be listed on the Building Professionals Board’s website as soon as they are available. These will be the only products verified by the NSW Government as meeting requirements.

Please contact your software provider or IT support for more information.

Who can access the data and how is my privacy protected?

Access to the data is tightly controlled and is governed by legislation, such as section 82A of the Building Professionals Act 2005, which lists relevant agencies and purposes for data-sharing.

The Minister has authority to enter into data-sharing arrangements with local councils. Councils already receive and hold records from private certifiers, so data-sharing arrangements will not compromise a certifier’s privacy or that of their clients. Councils will only receive data that is relevant to their local government area.

Giving a council real-time visibility over development as it progresses will help the council take more effective enforcement action if required. This benefits both the certifier involved and the broader community.

Also, CertAbility users should carefully read the app terms and conditions when downloading the app.

How often do I need to report data?

PCAs must provide data at each reporting stage within 2 days of the event (such as completing an inspection or issuing an occupation certificate). The first time data must be reported for an individual building work is no later than 2 days before building work commences.

CertAbility app data transfers instantly to the Government's database.  Users should report data as soon as practicable after each certificate or notice is issued and each inspection completed.

SFTP processing occurs every day, including public holidays at approximately 7pm.  This is an 'insert new and update' process.  Users do not need to send every record all the time, just new items and amendments.

API data transfers instantly to the Government's database.

Does the data reporting replace other recordkeeping requirements for certifying authorities?

Not at present, though the Government intends, over time, to streamline reporting requirements for councils and certifiers, where possible without compromising building safety or compliance.

Are there penalties for not reporting data?

Legislation has always required certifiers to keep certain records and forward certain information and documents to local councils. This has not changed.

Reporting will be mandatory from 1 July 2018 and the Board’s focus for the first six months from this date will be an education focus. However, certifying authorities who fail to meet their reporting requirements may be subject to investigation and disciplinary action.

The maximum penalty for failing to report as required is set by the Building Professionals Regulation 2007 as a $5,500 fine and/or a penalty infringement notice of $1,500 for individuals ($3,000 for corporations).

What if no final OC is issued for a building work?

The record for that building work will remain open in our database if no final occupation certificate (OC) is issued. There is no penalty to the PCA for having an ‘open’ record.

This important information will show how many developments, and which types of development, are not finalised.

What if the PCA changes for a development?

The outgoing PCA will report all certification work on the development that is carried out up to the date of the change of PCA. The new PCA will then commence reporting for the development after the change of PCA date.

Depending on the reporting method used, the new PCA may or may not need to re-enter data for certification work by the previous PCA.

  • If both PCAs use the app, the outgoing PCA can use the app’s ‘transfer work’ function to transfer the building work to the new PCA. The new PCA can then accept the work within the app and will not need to re-enter data.
  • If the outgoing PCA uses the app, and the new PCA uses the API or SFTP, the outgoing PCA can generate an export file (csv format) from the app and send it to the new PCA. Although the new PCA will need to re-enter the data, the csv file will provide a convenient reference point.
  • If the outgoing PCA uses the API or SFTP, and the new PCA uses the app, the new PCA will need to re-enter data for certification work by the previous PCA.
How do I report a staged DA?

Simply report each construction certificate (CC) as an additional CC for that DA. All three data reporting channels allow multiple CCs to be recorded for a DA.

Specific questions about the API and SFTP

This section contains information that relates only to the API and SFTP. Other sections of this page have information that applies to all three reporting options.

How do I access the API or SFTP specifications?

Visit the data reporting options page for the technical specifications and further instructions.

Important:

  • These are technical documents and not intended for a general audience. If you are a certifier or do not have relevant expertise in software development, forward the documents without alteration to your software provider.
  • The SFTP document is not a template to fill out. It is an explanation of how to create a set of txt files that are zipped and sent via SFTP.
Some data fields in the specifications are marked ‘required’. Is the rest optional?

No, all data is required. PCAs are expected to have completed all data fields* by the time a final OC is issued.

‘Required’ in the API and SFTP specifications only means ‘required’ in a technical sense – the minimum data required for the uploaded file to be accepted by our database. Some data fields (e.g. the final inspection date) can only be known late in the process, so can’t be required from the beginning of the work.

*Our database can use the address data to automatically populate the latitude and longitude fields. However, please complete these fields if you can.

How do I access the test and production databases?

When you’re ready to test your updated software or system, email support@onegov.nsw.gov.au requesting access to the test database.

Once you have submitted data without error to the test database, you will be given access to send data to the production database (i.e. the ‘real’ database).

Do I have to send all records with each data transfer?

No, you only need to send amendments and updates. However, you may send all data for all developments if you prefer.

For the SFTP, is it one zip file per building work or one overall?

Upload one zip file in total for all building works. The zip file must contain 13 txt files. Each txt file can have data about multiple building works.

Specific questions about the CertAbility app

This section contains information that relates only to the app. Other sections of this page have information that applies to all three reporting options.

How do I download and register for the CertAbility app?
  1. Download the free CertAbility app from the Apple store or Google Play store.
  2. Email certability@bpb.nsw.gov.au with your full name to be added to our approved users list.
  3. Wait two business days, then register your account and log in (the approval process takes about one business day).
How do I use the CertAbility app?

We've worked to make the CertAbility app intuitive, but for more help please pdf download the CertAbility user guide (PDF | 1.5M).

To save time, set up each building work in the app when you are in the office with the relevant documents at hand (or ask your office staff to do this for you). It can be awkward to set up a work when you’re out of office, simply because it’s unlikely you’ll have all relevant documents with you.

Is CertAbility only available for iOS and Android?

Yes. CertAbility only works on phones or tablets with an iOS (Apple) or Android operating system. If you cannot access an iOS or Android device please choose either the API or SFTP reporting options.

Tip: The app works best with the latest iOS or Android software version. If you’re having trouble using the app, consider installing a later version of your phone’s operating software.

Can I use the app on my desktop computer or laptop?

CertAbility is a ‘native app’ developed for use on particular devices. It has not been coded for a desktop computer or laptop.

App users may be able to use an ‘emulator’ or screen ‘mirror’ to interact with the app using a computer. Users do so at their own risk and should not rely on this method.

Tip: need a bigger screen? Try using the app on a tablet rather than a phone.

Do the iOS and Android versions of the app differ?

There are some slight differences in the look and feel of the iOS and Android versions of the app, but both record the same data.

Also, because tablets have a bigger screen there are slight differences in the app display on a tablet compared with a phone. Using a tablet in portrait view rather than landscape makes the app appear much like it does on a phone.

pdf Download the CertAbility user guide (PDF | 1.5M) for more detail.

How can an accredited body corporate (company) use the app?

The accredited company will have its own CertAbility account to report data. Each A1-A3 certifier working for the company may also have their own account.

Certifiers, use the company account for projects where the company is the PCA, and your personal account for projects where you are individually appointed as PCA.

Administrative and/or non-accredited staff, use the company account.

Specific questions for councils

Do the certification data reporting requirements replace the need to report data to the Department of Planning or ABS?

Not at present. The Department of Planning and Environment’s Local Development Performance Monitoring collects different data for a different purpose. In time, the Government intends to streamline council reporting requirements, to reduce red tape and improve building safety and compliance.

Do councils have to report certificates lodged with the council by a private certifier PCA?

No. As PCA, the certifier who issues a certificate or notice is responsible for reporting it.

Are ‘building certificates’ reported on?

No, building certificates issued by a council do not need to be reported.