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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4254


Senator MASON (9:54 AM) —I, and also on behalf of Senator Williams, move:

(1)   That the Senate requests the Auditor-General to undertake an urgent investigation of waste and mismanagement of the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program, with regard to:

(a)   whether value for money is being achieved in both the program’s job creation and education aspirations, particularly as demonstrated by examples of:

(i)   schools being prevented from using local builders, in favour of government-preferred contractors who are charging significantly more for comparable projects,

(ii)   tenderers being offered the opportunity to bid for projects outside of their local area, but prevented from bidding for projects in their local area,

(iii)   construction costs incurred under the tender program being substantially higher than current construction industry rates,

(iv)   significant consultancy fees being levied by project managers over and above the 1.5 per cent limit that state and territory departments may take for administration costs,

(v)   schools receiving funds for maintenance and infrastructure in 2009 when the school will cease to exist in 2010,

(vi)   schools being forced by state education departments to accept pre-fabricated demountable halls that do not meet the needs of the local school community, and

(vii)   schools being forced to duplicate existing facilities rather than provide new infrastructure that the school community needs;

(b)   whether the Commonwealth Government is exercising sufficient supervision over state and territory governments and block grant authorities in the administration and implementation of the BER in order to prevent mismanagement and minimise waste;

(c)   whether the Commonwealth’s guidelines for the program are appropriate where:

(i)   certain categories of school (for example, distance education schools and secondary campuses of multi-campus schools) are ineligible for funding irrespective of their comparative level of need or ability to deliver projects,

(ii)   schools wishing to spend School Pride maintenance funds on energy-efficient air-conditioning or heating are explicitly prevented from doing so, and

(iii)   principals and governing council members feel they are prevented from raising concerns about BER projects for fear of losing funding for their school; and

(d)   any other examples of waste and mismanagement by either Commonwealth, state or territory governments in relation to this program that the Auditor-General deems relevant.

(2)   That the Auditor-General is requested to respond in a timely manner in order for the public to be fully informed of the program in advance of further parliamentary scrutiny of the issue.