Engineers: Are taxpayers being taken for a ride on East West Link

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Professionals Australia: Engineers: Are taxpayers being taken for a ride on East West Link? Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The professional engineers that design, scope and build large-scale infrastructure projects have questioned the veracity of the Victorian Government’s financial and delivery assertions on East West Link, upon the announcement of the East West Connect consortium as the project bidder, today.

Professionals Australia’s National Campaign Director Bede Payne said it was time for the Government to come clean and be honest with taxpayers, particularly around the project’s costs.

“The Government is telling taxpayers that East West Link will be delivered on time and within budget. However, industry data from Deloitte Access Economics shows that costs on large-scale projects blowout by an average of 12.7%. So, it is difficult to see how the Government can be so confident with its delivery and cost assertions.

“Taxpayers have a right to know the realities of what East West Link will actually cost to deliver.

“In this case the government told the world what their budget envelope was before the consortiums had even begun to properly investigate.

“These cost projections rely on the Government having the in-house engineering and technical capacity to manage the East West Link project. However, the Victorian Government has cut so many engineers and technical experts over the last few years, they simply no longer have enough expertise to keep these projects on track.

“Without proper engineering capacity, the Government has effectively become a cashed-up, uninformed purchaser, and the private sector is able to name their price. If you were doing a renovation on your house, it would be like handing the builder a blank cheque.

“Before this Government embarks on spending huge sums of taxpayer funds on the biggest project in the State, it has a responsibility to ensure it has the right engineering capacity to minimize waste and get best value for taxpayers.

Mr Payne said that engineers were concerned about the absence of transparency in the bidding process, which made it difficult for taxpayers to determine if they were getting best value for money.

“Engineers have a range of questions that the Government must now answer,” said Mr Payne.

“When the Government tells the public that the project will cost $6b-$8b, are they effectively building in a 25% buffer for the almost inevitable waste and delay that they know will occur?

“Does the Government think that the repeated reporting of their willingness to spend 6b-8b influenced the price of the return bids? Should we be unsurprised that the preferred bidders price is now falling within that envelope?

“The most pressing question of all is: Are taxpayers getting value?

“We call on the Government to get its engineering house in order, before it wastes millions of taxpayer dollars through waste and delay of East West Link.

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