The Age letters - Head down the road of good governance
20 March 2015
New evidence indicating that the previous Liberal state government deliberately signed the East West Link contract just before the election for political reasons should come as no surprise ("East West builders wrote their own deal", 19/1.
This contract is just the latest of a number of lazy, politically motivated contracting processes undertaken by state governments in recent history. Labor is not exempt; the myki contract is a good example. I once worked in procurement in a large state government department. Whenever we heard there was strong interest in a particular procurement from the minister's office, a collective groan would arise from my colleagues.
We knew there was a risk of due process being compromised, the extent of the risk depending on the level of political capital involved. The very least a democratically elected government can do is to act in the public interest. These contracts achieve the exact opposite. Premier Daniel Andrews now has an opportunity to return to the basic values of good governance; let's hope that he grasps it.
Bronwyn Benn, Burwood
Don't take Victorians for fools
In these times of corporatisation of government policy, aided and abetted by distinctly more expensive and inefficient public-private partnership arrangements, it's now clear the East West Link project plumbed new depths of dubiousness, in strategic transport policy rationale and sound business ethics. One can only wonder how the Napthine government thought they would get away with highly secretive, lucrative deals done behind closed doors. As for any spurious claims for compensation by the contractors, given the widespread expert and community concern, by October 2014 it was obvious that a secret deal stitched up on the eve of the caretaker period before the November election was on shaky ground. The contractors took that risk, arrogantly presuming they had the game stitched up. Rather than undermining investor confidence in Victoria, by tearing up the contracts the Andrews government would send a clear message to the global corporate world it would be a big mistake to take Victorians for fools.
Bernadette George, Emu Park, Qld
Transparency at every stage
If the debacle that is the East West Link teaches us anything, it is that it is "our" money and to that end, "every" significant government contract should be preceded by a business case evaluation, the tendering process should be transparent and there should be no such thing as commercial-in-confidence contracts and agreements and undisclosed compensation payments. The public should be able to read the documentation every step of the way. Without that, this situation highlights just how easy it is for those inclined to dubious practices to get away with "our" cash without us being any the wiser until it is too late. If a company refuses to accept this level of transparency, we could legitimately ask what they have to hide. We should never forget East West Link when it comes to the ballot box.
Margaret Callinan, Balwyn
True transport needs were derailed
The real tragedy of the East West Link debacle is that the previous government wasted four years of our lives with only token improvements in public transport services and infrastructure. Some areas, such as the Altona loop train service, actively forced people into their cars due to degradation of the timetable. Voters want frequent and reliable services but all of the planning went into an overpriced, useless toll road. Common sense is sadly not common at all.
Jennifer Williams, Altona