Auditor General critical on WestConnex spending

ANAO recommends procedural changes for advice to ministers on infrastructure loan planning

Auditor General critical on WestConnex spending
Coalition says WestConnex will deliver more than $20 billion in economic benefits to NSW.


The Auditor General has criticised both Coalition and Labor for their handling of the funding allocation for Sydney’s WestConnex project.

The Approval and Administration of Commonwealth Funding for the WestConnex Project report is based on an investigation by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO’s) into the controversial WestConnex project.

The purpose of the audit was to determine whether appropriate steps were taken to protect public interests and obtain value for money in respect to the $3.5 billion federal funding committed to the state government for the project.

After copping continuing flack, urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher uses the report to hit back at Labor infrastructure spokesperson Anthony Albanese, upon whose request the investigation was launched, for taking credit for the project funding.

"This report confirms (on page 15) that in 2013 federal Labor committed $1.8 billion to fund WestConnex, which is a useful reminder of Labor’s hypocrisy on WestConnex," Fletcher says in a statement.

Albanese says that Labor’s backing came with preconditions argues that the present government failed to follow through on, such as development of a full business case, the assessment by Infrastructure Australia, no tolls on existing untolled roads and access to the port.

The criticism echoes earlier ones relating to Melbourne’s East-West Link and the Perth Freight Link.

"The latest report confirms the Coalition misled Australians in the 2013 election campaign when it promised not invest in major projects without the completion of proper cost-benefit analysis," Albanese says.

The minister underlines that the report is not critical of the project and welcomes the recommendation made by ANAO.

"Nothing in this report raises any questions about WestConnex’s design, the construction program, or the benefits that WestConnex will deliver to millions of people in western and southwestern Sydney—such as cutting travel time from Parramatta to Sydney Airport by 40 minutes," Fletcher says.

He says the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) has agreed to the recommendation that it make "some technical process changes for advice provided to ministers when a loan is being provided to a state government to fund infrastructure".

The report highlights that decisions by both sides to provide significant support for the project were "inconsistent" with the advice produced by both the DIRD and Infrastructure Australia.

The report also states that there is evidence to prove that the second stage of the project could have gone ahead without the $2 billion concessional loan by obtaining funds through private sector lenders and through privatisation of part of the project in 2019-20.

Read the full report here.

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