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Financial institutions and project bank accounts

Following changes to Queensland building sector laws, financial institutions may be approached to establish project bank accounts (PBAs).

The Building Industry Fairness (Security of Payment) Act 2017 (BIF Act) requires PBAs to be used for certain building projects in Queensland.

The head contractor for a qualifying contract must determine whether a contract requires a PBA. If so, they must establish a PBA and use it to manage payments between the principal and head contractor, and head contractor and first-tier subcontractors.

Read more about what a PBA is and determining if a PBA is needed.

Rules for opening PBAs

A PBA must be opened at the office or branch of a financial institution within Queensland within 20 business days of the head contractor being awarded a relevant contract.

The name of each account that forms a PBA must contain the words 'trust'.

The provisions of the Trust Accounts Act 1973 (Qld) and Trusts Act 1973 (Qld) don't apply to these accounts. PBAs are a statutory trust, governed by the requirements of the BIF Act and common law.

Read more about setting up a PBA.

Requirements for operating PBAs

The head contractor is responsible for managing funds held in the PBAs, as the trustee of the accounts.

They must:

  • make all deposits to PBA accounts only through electronic transfers
  • make all withdrawals from, and transfers between, the trust accounts using a payment instruction given to the financial institution.

These requirements prevent cash withdrawals and ensure that the principal has adequate transparency of transaction records through their account viewing access.

Head contractors are entitled to the interest earned on the PBA trust accounts, but they can only withdraw an amount equal to the interest earned from each trust account once every 12 months or when closing the PBA.

Read more about operating a PBA.

Principal's role

Principal's viewing access

The PBA trust accounts must allow the contract's principal (or their nominee) electronic viewing access to:

  • detailed transaction information on all individual transactions included in each payment instruction, including the account names and numbers (BSB and account numbers), amount paid and date paid (and these details must be viewable in the accounts (or easily accessible) as a record of the payments being made)
  • account payment reports detailing deposits into, and withdrawals from, PBAs
  • where funds are transferred by the head contractor into the retention or disputed funds trust accounts, so these funds are 'identifiable' as being held for a subcontractor beneficiary of the PBA through the transaction history of these accounts (i.e. subcontractor's name or abbreviation).

The principal must be able to view the above information over the life of the accounts.

This access allows the contract principal to monitor the accounts to ensure that subcontractors are being paid in accordance with the BIF Act.

Principals must report certain payment discrepancies to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission, but don't have a role in authorising payments made through PBAs.

Principal 'step in' powers

In certain circumstances, including contract termination or head contractor insolvency (in section 54 of the BIF Act) the principal may decide to assume the role of trustee to a project bank account.

If this occurs, the head contractor must inform the banking institution that the principal will act as trustee of the PBA.

Bank fees and charges

The BIF Act doesn't regulate the fees and charges that a bank may levy on the head contractor to provide PBAs.

More information

If your banking platforms and systems allow these functions, you may wish to provide PBAs to your building industry clients in Queensland.

Resources on PBAs

For more detail on PBA requirements, see:

Policy briefings

The Department of Housing and Public Works is offering detailed policy briefings to banking institutions interested in providing PBAs to customers in the building and construction sector.

To organise a policy briefing or ask about PBA policy requirements, email securityofpayment@hpw.qld.gov.au.

Contact

Coronavirus (COVID-19) business support: 1300 654 687

General enquiries: 13 QGOV (13 74 68)