Page 615 - Week 02 - Thursday, 24 March 2022
(3) calls on the ACT Government to:
(a) commission an independent audit of all ACT Government procurements contracted from 2016-17 to the present;
(b) table the audit terms of reference and the identity of the appointed auditor in the Assembly by the next sitting; and
(c) table the audit report in full in the Assembly within seven days of receiving it from the independent auditor.
Last month I wrote to the Chief Minister about serious probity issues raised by the Auditor-General and the Integrity Commissioner and asked him to provide Canberrans with confidence in public expenditure by committing to an audit of all ACT government procurements over the past five years.
Needless to say, the Chief Minister did not respond to my letter but did palm it off to the Special Minister of State. It is disappointing that, as the head of the Labor-Greens government, he does not seem to be taking integrity in government procurement seriously. This is exceedingly disrespectful to all Canberrans, who deserve to know that their taxpayer dollars are being spent in a way that is transparent and with the highest, utmost level of integrity and probity. All Canberrans deserve to know how and why this Labor-Greens government makes decisions—decisions that impact all of us as a community.
The Chief Minister and his cabinet are responsible for creating a culture of secrecy, and it must stop. In his correspondence, the Special Minister of State mentions the review of Procurement ACT recently completed by Renée Leon. The Labor-Greens government will not release the report. So much for open and transparent government.
The Special Minister of State also says that it would be too much work to review ACT government procurements. Perhaps it would be wise of the minister to take heed of the words of the Integrity Commissioner during the recent annual reports hearings, when the commissioner said:
… the amount of money spent on investigating could be very small compared to the public interest in ensuring this kind of thing did not happen.
Safeguarding the public interest is critical. In fact, this is a core duty of any government that is provided with the privilege of making decisions that impact our city, our future and our people. The minister’s argument that it is too hard or too expensive is just not good enough. I note, in foreshadowing the minister’s amendments, that he has again relied on that argument.
The Auditor-General’s report that prompted my call for action, looking into the Campbell Primary School modernisation project procurement, found that the whole process lacked probity and, in particular, that there was no justification to depart from the tender evaluation team’s advice. It is absolutely clear that Canberrans did not get the accountability, the transparency, the objectivity, the highest level of probity that they should expect from government procurement decisions on this one. This raises