WestConnex audit slams Federal Government process

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 | Jenny Leong

The Australian National Audit Office has released its report into Commonwealth funding of the WestConnex project. The report looks into whether appropriate steps were taken to protect the Commonwealth's interests and obtain value for money in relation to the $3.5 billion in Commonwealth funding committed to WestConnex.

NSW Greens spokesperson on WestConnex and Member for Newtown Jenny Leong:

"The report shows that the rationale for funding this project was deeply deficient. It points the finger at both the Liberal Coalition and Labor, because they were pushing the WestConnex project well before even an initial business case was presented to the appropriate government departments," says Ms Leong.

"The cost of WestConnex has now blown out considerably. This is what happens when politicians make up policy during an election cycle and flaunt proper process. As Labor's Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese committed millions to nothing more than an idea, this was then progressed when the Abbott Government came to power and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss continued to push it through despite warnings.

"In December 2014 the then NSW Auditor General Grant Hehir raised serious concerns about the governance, finance and independence of the initial WestConnex Business Case. Now in his role as the national Auditor General he has again rung the alarm bells loud and clear. The report puts in print some very uncomfortable facts about WestConnex, things that the community has suspected for years.

"The Report shows that key milestones were fudged to ensure the money kept on flowing. There has been an appalling lack of probity and good governance throughout the life of this project. Proper process has been compromised all along the way.

"There is now no option but for the Premier to step in and re-evaluate this project. The community concerns continue to grow, the damning evidence that things are being rushed through and planned on the run can no longer be ignored.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon:

"The Greens called for this audit because we knew that the concessional loan stunk, and we knew that the project fell well short of the rigorous and independent planning that enormous infrastructure investments like this require."

Greens Federal spokesperson for Transport Senator Janet Rice:

"The toll road agenda is failing across the country. The Greens stand with the community to demand responsible transport answers, not just more spaghetti junctions."

BACKGROUND

This ANAO audit was requested by Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon on 10 August 2015. A strong community campaign to push for this independent audit ensured it occurred.

The objective of this audit was to assess whether appropriate steps were taken to protect the Commonwealth's interests and obtain value for money in respect to the $3.5 billion in Commonwealth funding committed to the NSW Government for the WestConnex project.

Audit criteria:

1) Was the Commonwealth's decision to make a financial commitment to the project informed by appropriate advice and made through the processes that have been established to assess the merits of nationally significant infrastructure investments?

2) Were the decisions to approve the commitment of $1.5 billion in direct Commonwealth funding, and make respective milestone payments to date, informed by appropriate advice?

3) Was the decision to enter into a $2 billion concessional loan arrangement with the NSW Government informed by appropriate advice?

4) Do the terms of the concessional loan arrangements represent value for money and protect the Commonwealth's interests?

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Media contact for Jenny Leong: 0499 550 996