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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 15 September 2015) . . Page.. 3012 ..

The objective of the audit was to provide an independent opinion to the Legislative Assembly on the probity of the sale of ACTTAB, including whether there was appropriate consideration and analysis of the bids received from potential purchasers against all relevant legislative, policy, financial and other requirements or factors. The audit examined all aspects of the sale, including the planning, administration and communication processes associated with the sale. The audit examined the compliance of the sale process with ACT government procurement legislation and policies associated with the sale of public assets.

The report confirmed what we already knew, which is that the sale price of $105.5 million was a very good result for the territory, especially as this price far exceeded expectations. The review also confirmed that all the sale objectives were achieved.

A particular matter arising in the report was whether the sale was subject to the Government Procurement Act 2001. The government notes the report puts forward particular views on how the sale process should have been undertaken. These views are very different from the legal, technical and sales advice that the government relied upon during the conduct of the sale.

Despite the outstanding success of the sale, the report has suggested there was a lack of probity and transparency during the first stage of the process, in which expressions of interest were invited. With respect to the Auditor-General, the government does not agree with this finding. While the report finds that the provisions of the Government Procurement Act should have been followed, the government maintains its position that the act did not apply to the sale, as confirmed in legal advice provided to the ACT government by the ACT Government Solicitor’s office. The government does not consider that the probity of the sale process was affected by the non-application of that act.

The sale was informed by expert legal and commercial advisers, was subject to strict probity and appropriate management arrangements and followed frameworks commonly used in government business sales in other jurisdictions. Risks were identified and managed. Key decisions and their underlying reasons were clearly documented.

The government is concerned about suggestions in the audit report regarding the adequacy and transparency of the process for evaluating the five initial bids. In particular, the government does not agree with the suggestion that the evaluation of the operational capacity and criteria inappropriately excluded three of the interested parties.

To put the sales process in context, five applicants responded to the call for expressions of interest. The relative merits of each applicant were carefully assessed by the sale project team, with significant input from the expert sales adviser, against a number of clearly documented eligibility criteria. Three of the interested parties were excluded at the expression of interest stage based on legal advice provided to the project team and the steering committee. These parties were excluded on the grounds that their proposed plans to operate a totalisator would not allow them to qualify for a totalisator licence.

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