The Auditor-General’s report into the conduct of the Australia Network tender is a damning indictment of the handling of this tender by both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.
It demonstrates that the dysfunction at the heart of this Government is responsible for the ultimate corruption of this $223 million tender.
The Government has been exposed for applying poor processes, allowing conflicts of interest to develop and being lax with the security of commercially confidential information.
Senator Conroy has form on botched tenders. Taxpayers lost millions on the initial botched National Broadband Network (NBN) tenders. Taxpayers are now having to pay even more as compensation for this botched tender.
Labor has form on shoddy implementation. They couldn’t install ‘Pink Batts’ and couldn’t build school halls without massive waste. We now know they couldn’t even handle a tender for an existing service.
As the Auditor-General has said:
- “The manner and circumstances in which this high profile tender process was conducted brought into question the Government’s ability to deliver such a sensitive process fairly and effectively.” (p. 24)
- “… briefings should have had greater regard to the confidentiality and sensitivity of the information being provided for what was still a ‘live’ tender process. Ultimately, information was not as tightly controlled as it should have been.” (p. 21)
- Allowing Conroy to reject Australia Network tender recommendation gave rise to “perceptions, at least, of a conflict of interest” (p. 20)
- “The Australia Network tender process has presented the Australian Government in a poor light and cost the two tenderers-the ANC and the ABC-time and money.” (p. 23)
This last point was further emphasised by unsuccessful tenderer Sky News (Australian News Channel Pty Ltd) in its response (cited on p.26 of the Auditor-General’s report):
“The Australia Network tenders represent a failure of public administration and highlight the potential risk to a commercial organisation of engaging in business with the Commonwealth, particularly when a government owned entity is the competitor.”
This report is not the end of this matter. It demonstrates that there are many questions to be
answered about why the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and Senator Conroy chose to disrupt and distort this tender at various junctions.
The Prime Minister should now release all of the documents relevant to this tender, including the Cabinet papers, and should make a full statement explaining the very deliberate actions of her Government that led to this process going so wrong.