Auditor General’s ‘Watergate’ Report Shows Need for Royal Commission

An Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report on the Murray Darling Basin has found “information relating to value for money…was limited” for water purchases worth $190 million.

The ANAO found that the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE):

  • Did not consistently apply approved policy, planning and guidance to the assessment of all limited tender procurements.
  • Did not appropriately manage procurement risks.
  • Did not develop a framework designed to maximise value for money.
  • Did not consistently provide complete information to enable decision makers to make informed decisions.
  • Did not provide a clear indication of how the procurements would obtain a triple bottom line outcome

The audit was requested by Centre Alliance, Labor, Greens and Cory Bernardi after Australia Institute research showed the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment paid record prices for water with dubious reliability, sparking the #watergate scandal.

“Today’s ANAO report has shown the Commonwealth did not properly manage $190 million worth of water purchases,” said Rod Campbell, Director of Research at The Australia Institute.

“The ANAO was only able to assess the processes in place, not the merits of the purchases or the motivations of key players.

“The implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan has been riddled with problems from day one and now we know the department has not consistently applied approved policy, planning and guidance to water purchase agreements.

“With the ANAO’s finding that good process was lacking, an investigation into who benefited is required. This highlights the need for a water Royal Commission.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Maryanne Slattery, Director of Slattery & Johnson.

“In this report we see that, on multiple occasions, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment did not do what it was supposed to do, or what it said it would do.

“The deal that saw the Commonwealth Government pay way over the odds for water from Eastern Australia Agriculture is just one of the many examples of egregious mismanagement of water by the Commonwealth.

“The ANAO report fully vindicates my report with The Australia Institute showing the purchase price was haggled upwards, not downwards, and that the Commonwealth bought water without a dam to store it in.

“Only a Royal Commission has the broad powers and the resources required to adequately investigate the broader problems within the Murray Darling Basin Plan.”