Tony Abbott ‘ignored advice’ over East West Link

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ANAO’s East West Link report is a potentially eye-opening, rollicking read of stupidity and poor processes, released less than a week after Victorian Auditor-General’s Report on East West Link. We say “potentially” as many of us realised in 2012 that East West Links chaotic trail led back to Abbott.

Approval and Administration of Commonwealth Funding for the East West Link Project – Tabled 14 December 2015

The objective of the audit was to assess whether appropriate steps were taken to protect the Commonwealth’s interests and obtain value for money in respect to the:

approval of $1.5 billion in Commonwealth funding for stage one of the East West Link project, and the June 2014 payment of $500 million of this funding; and
approval of $1.5 billion in Commonwealth funding for stage two of the East West Link project, and the June 2014 payment of $1 billion of this funding.

Denis Napthine (left) and Tony Abbott in Geelong in 2014. The Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, said the pair should face scrutiny ‘for intentionally wasting billions of dollars in public funds for nakedly political purposes’. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

Denis Napthine (left) and Tony Abbott in Geelong in 2014. The Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, said the pair should face scrutiny ‘for intentionally wasting billions of dollars in public funds for nakedly political purposes’. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

ANAO report in the media:

Guardian Australia: Scathing report damns Abbott’s handling of East West Link funds (15 December 2015)
The Abbott government inflated the deficit during its first year in power by transferring $1.5bn to Victoria for the East West Link despite “clear advice” the payments were not yet needed, an audit report has found. The government approved the funding even though it had received departmental warnings that neither stage of the Melbourne project had proceeded through a full assessment of its merits, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) said in the report issued on Monday. The report raises serious questions about the federal government’s handling of the 18km project, which was also championed by the former Victorian Coalition government but was subsequently scrapped by the Andrews Labor administration.

ABC Victoria: East West Link: Tony Abbott ‘ignored advice’ over Victorian road project, auditor-general says. by Alison Savage (14 Dec 2015)
Former prime minister Tony Abbott ignored advice not to hand Victoria $1.5 billion for the ill-fated East West Link project, an audit has found. The Commonwealth gave the former Napthine government $1.5 billion for the toll road’s eastern section in June 2014 and promised the same amount again for its second stage. A scathing report by the federal auditor-general found the East West Link had not been assessed as “nationally significant infrastructure” before the money was committed.

SBS: Auditor queries East West Link approval  (14 Dec 2015)
Tony Abbott did not follow the usual process for approving funding for Victoria’s East West Link road project, an auditor-general’s report has found. The report released on Monday said the then prime minister had approved $3 billion for the project in May 2014. The “usual process” was for the infrastructure department to brief the relevant minister on its analysis of whether the project proposal is “in accordance with the legislated requirements”.

The Age: Tony Abbott slammed for political timing of East West Link road cash. by Josh Gordon, State political editor for The Age  (14 Dec 2015)
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ends a stoush between the federal government and Victoria by unlocking $1.5 billion that was set aside for the East-West project. Tony Abbott rushed a promise to hand over $3 billion of East West Link cash despite “clear advice” from the public service that the project hadn’t been justified and wasn’t ready. In a damning assessment, federal Auditor-General Grant Hehir​ has revealed Mr Abbott personally approved payments for both sections of the road, signing over half the money, $1.5 billion, on the last day of 2013-14 to maximise the budget deficit pain in Labor’s final financial year.  In doing so, the audit report found Mr Abbott ignored clear advice from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development that the money was being paid well in advance of project needs, suggesting the decision was taken for political purposes, in the absence of any rigorous assessment.

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