After nine years of Coalition Government, issues with integrity have been a constant theme with decision making that was partisan, politicised and lacking integrity.
The Greens have been pushing for a national anti-corruption commission for years, and have a “top Ten” list of NACC referrals for consideration when NACC opens for business on 1 July.
Top Ten list of NACC referrals
The NACC is likely unique in being a Government agency that does NOT have a current contract with PwC and well placed to undertake an independent and comprehensive investigation. Currently the AFP has a very narrow referral re PwC and the actions of one partner, it’s clear there is significantly more that needs investigation and NACC is perfectly placed to do it.
Almost half a million Australians were impacted by the Robodebt scheme and they deserve justice. The matter was considered extensively by the Royal Commission which identified legal breaches, as well as corruption concerns and the Royal Commissions is likely to support the referral in its final report. The NACC has a critical role in embedding anti-corruption matters across the public sector as a result.
3. Hunter Frigates
The ANAO has detailed how Defence failed to comply with mandatory Commonwealth tender rules in awarding a $45 billion contract for 6 anti-mine warfare frigates from British firm BAE.
BAE was placed on the tender short list by former Defence Secretary Richardson for reasons that have never been explained, and despite Defence being advised they were a high risk tenderer. The reason why he did this are not known because the records of that decision making have been lost by Defence.
Despite Defence having 730,000 other records for the Hunter Frigate program just 10 have been lost. These include records of these critical, highly questionable, decisions to advance BAE.
4. Morrison secret ministries
Scott Morrison’s appointment to five secret ministries and the lack of public notification from the Governor General’s office has raised significant questions about the integrity of ministerial decision-making.
The secret ministries scandal raised concerns about the politicisation of the Governor General’s office and the possible links to the Future Leaders Program.
The NACC should review the role of the GG’s office in facilitating an $18 million grant to a program closely linked to the GG while the office also facilitated Morrison’s secret appointments.
5. MTC Nauru contracts
In early 2023 MTC Pty Ltd was awarded a three-year contract worth just over $420 million that will run until 30 September 2025 to provide 'Facilities, Garrison & Reception Services in Nauru'. This is despite the Government’s intention to transfer all remaining refugees from the offshore processing cohort currently in Nauru to Australia by 30 June 2023.
This is on top of an earlier contract worth $47.3m to provide those same services for three months, and roughly $1.5 billion across the forward estimates in the 2023-34 Budget for offshore processing.
When any government decides to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep an empty privately-run prison open for years, then of course it needs close scrutiny.
6. Contracts linked to Synergy 360 (and Minister Stuart Robert)
At least $374 million of government contracts linked to a friend of former Cabinet Minister Stuart Robert this is a deal that needs to go under the microscope.
The result of an internal review into the deals found significant concerns over conflicts of interest, poor value for money and inadequate record keeping, NACC needs to go further and deeper into this murky arrangement. While former Minister Robert is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the public is also entitled to answers.
7. Spending and administration of the community health and hospitals program (CHHP)
A report by the Audit Office into the CHHP found the administration of the Morrison Government's $2 billion local health and hospitals program was plagued by malpractice and potential corruption issues including cases where rules and finance laws were deliberately breached. There are 2 billion good reasons for NACC to open this file.
8. Sport rorts
A key early catalyst for the creation of the Federal NACC, there are many unanswered questions about the “Sports Rorts” program. This involved the allocation of $100 million of funding for political goals, not community outcomes.
We need an early answer from NACC on how to end the damaging practice of pork barrelling, with clear rules to protect public finances from being raided for deeply partisan purposes.
9. Watergate and Grassgate
How and why the Commonwealth paid $80 million for water licences from Eastern Australia Agriculture, a Cayman Islands company established by Energy Minister Angus Taylor, are questions the NACC could answer.
The public also deserve clarity on the role of the former Coalition Minister in the investigation of illegal land clearing by his family owned company Jam Land. Once again, while former Minister Taylor is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the public must have clear answers.
10. Western Sydney Airport sale
The ANAO report into the Leppington Triangle deal found significant issues that should be considered by the NACC. The Department of Infrastructure valued the land at one tenth of the final purchase price of $29 million.
As the ANAO said: “The incomplete advice provided to decision-makers, and the inadequate response by the department when questions were raised by the ANAO, was inconsistent with effective and ethical stewardship of public resources.”
Lines attributable to Senator David Shoebridge, Justice Spokesperson:
“For too long federal politics has operated with a culture of impunity where coverups, partisan decisions and pork barrelling have been accepted as just how things are done. It’s time to change how things are done in Canberra.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many other referrals that will need to happen after the last 9 years of Coalition government.
“This top ten list shows just how much work there is to be done by the NACC with cases involving gross misuse of grant money, cosy relationships with contractors and tender practices that are so broken they are utterly lacking in integrity.
“Our 15 Greens MPs will be working across their portfolios to prepare formal referrals in the coming weeks and months.
“It’s possible the NACC is the only Federal body not currently contracting with PwC, placing it in a unique position to get to grips with their misuse of confidential information and broader influence on Government.
“The top 10 are across a swathe of government agencies and show just how deeply integrity and accountability were undermined by the former Government.
“It’s clear the NACC is going to need significant resources to address the backlog in accountability and we’ll be watching closely to ensure these are available,” Senator Shoebridge said.