Auditor-General slams Labor

Reading a Newspaper

Saturday 18 September 2021

Victoria’s Auditor-General has slammed the Andrews Labor Government over its botched process of engaging private security companies for its disastrous Hotel Quarantine Program last year, which resulted in Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19 and caused over 800 Victorians to lose their lives.

In a scathing report, the Auditor-General found the Andrews Labor Government had:

“breached market confidentiality when it contacted Trades Hall to discuss security services for the Hotel Quarantine Program.”

The Auditor-General found the Labor Government’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions had failed to “follow its procurement policies and procedures when it engaged” Unified Security to provide private security guards at Hotel Quarantine and:

“breached probity when it awarded a contract for security services at the Hotel Quarantine Program and inappropriately approved contracts”.

The explosive findings come after the Liberal Nationals members of the Public Accounts and Estimates committee recommended the Auditor-General to undertake an investigation into how private security companies were engaged by the Andrews Labor Government for the Hotel Quarantine Program.

In shocking findings, the Auditor-General found the Labor Government had breached confidentiality when Government bureaucrats discussed Private Security Contracts with members of Trades Hall Council.

Internal documents reveal that senior Government bureaucrats would “call Trades Hall re 2 companies” and had spent time “ensuring that Trades Hall was comfortable with Unified continuing to be engaged on an ongoing basis”, with emails also listing security companies as being “preferred by Trades Hall”.

The Auditor-General found these discussions “breached market confidentiality” surrounding the tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money that was later spent on Private Security for Hotel Quarantine.

In extraordinary findings, the Auditor-General found that when Labor Government bureaucrats discussed costings for security companies, they found Unified Security, who was not on the Government’s approved panel of providers, “was more expensive” than other security firms who were on the Government’s approved panel. In stark contrast, the Auditor-General found the security companies who were already on the Government’s approved panel “provided the cheapest options”.
The Auditor-General found that Unified Security “had not undergone a due diligence process and not agreed to the service standards” of the Department’s contracts.

The Auditor-General found there was a complete “lack of transparency and accountability” when the Labor Government engaged security companies for Hotel Quarantine and had:

• Failed to Maintain records of contract authorisation.

• Failed to Declare any conflicts of interest before contracts were made.

• Failed to Disclose the contract until 94 days after it was made.

The Andrews Labor Government is still refusing to confirm how much it paid United Security for its contract (believed to be around $45 million) because of ongoing legal action. The Labor Government is also refusing to release details of a forensic audit concerning whether security guards were exploited and subject to wage theft while working on the failed Hotel Quarantine program.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Industry, Bridget Vallence:

“The Auditor-General’s findings are a scathing indictment of the Andrews Labor Government’s decision to use private security guards to manage its catastrophic Hotel Quarantine Program.”

“Not only did the Andrews Labor Government breach commercial confidentiality when it spoke to their Union mates at Trades Hall about their ‘preferred’ security contractors, but it also selected the most expensive security company.”

“Rather that choosing a commercially competitive security company which was already on the Government’s approved panel, it selected the most expensive security company, costing taxpayers’ tens of millions of dollars more.”

“The Auditor-General’s findings that there was a complete ‘lack of transparency and accountability’ are damning and demonstrate how arrogant and unaccountable the Andrews Labor Government has become”.

“The Auditor-General found that confidentiality and probity requirements were breached, due diligence was trashed and contracts were ‘inappropriately’ signed. Yet every Government bureaucrat involved kept their job, while more than 800 Victorians tragically lost their lives as a result of this fatally flawed Quarantine Program.”

“The Andrews Labor Government is still refusing to tell Victorians how much it paid these private security companies and continues to refuse to release details about security guards being underpaid and exploited under this botched program.”