23 June 2010

Contract billions kept off public record

Victorian taxpayers are being kept in the dark on how billions of dollars are spent on lucrative private sector contracts.

An auditor-general's report found one third of $10 billion-plus contracts signed by the Victorian government were not made public.

By law, government departments must release full details of contracts worth more than $10 million.

But the report, tabled in state parliament on Wednesday, found 43 out of 144 contracts in that range on January 1 were not disclosed.

Collectively, the contracts amounted to $3 billion in taxpayers money, spent across six departments.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said it was a small number of cases - equating to 10 per cent of the total value of contracts in the $10 million bracket - but admitted it was not good enough.

"To be blunt there's no excuse for departments not doing that (disclosing contract details), departments need to do that and they will do that," he told reporters.

Contract details across 11 government departments are required to be posted on the Contracts Publishing System database, available online.

Auditor-General Des Pearson said disclosure requirements for contracts above $100,000 were generally met, however contracts over $10 million were less compliant.

This was a reflection of "systematic breakdowns in disclosure and reporting controls that diminish transparency", he said.

The report also found 45 items contained in the contract for Victoria's $3.5 billion desalination plant had been omitted because they were deemed commercially sensitive by Water Minister Tim Holding.

The exclusions included details of annual water supply volumes and compensation for unforeseen events.

Opposition leader Ted Baillieu accused the government of a cover-up and concealing key government contracts worth billions of dollars.

"I have no doubt that this is just John Brumby at work, this is the secret state at work," he said.

Challenged over the report in question time, Mr Brumby hit back, saying the government had introduced disclosure laws to remedy practices under the former coalition government when contracts were never made public.

"Ninety per cent of the total value of all contracts are published on the CPS," he said.

"That is 90 per cent more than was ever previously the case."

ninemsn 23 June 2010

Shady dealings exposed, BUT no one will be held responsible nor prosecuted.

EVERY GOVERNMENT commits fraud.

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