Jul 27, 2010

Regional & Local Community Infrastructure Program audit

Regional & Local Community Infrastructure Program audit

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

July 27 2010

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report into the Strategic Projects component of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program raises no concerns about the merits of the individual projects selected and funded.

All of these larger scale, multi-million dollar projects were identified and put forward by democratically elected councils as the most important priority for their local communities.

Delivered as part of our Nation Building–Economic Stimulus Plan, this $550 million investment in the nation’s community infrastructure successfully leveraged additional funding from other sources and is now building new facilities worth more than $2 billion.

Indeed the report shows that councils representing some 12 million Australians – or more than half the population – secured funding under this Program.

As well as leaving a lasting legacy in communities nationwide, this Program kept thousands of local tradespeople working and many local businesses operating during the worst global recession in 75 years.

The ANAO also found the allocation of funding across federal electorates was in line with the political makeup of the House of Representatives.

Put simply, Labor MPs held 55.3 per cent of the electorates and their local councils secured 56.7 per cent of the funding from the Program’s Strategic Projects component.

What’s more, the four largest grants, totalling more than $83 million, or 15 per cent of the available funding, went to projects in electorates held by Coalition or Independent MPs.

To ensure the Program’s integrity, funding decisions were made based on departmental advice and following independent viability assessments of the proposals submitted.

When the other half of this Program is taken into account, the total investment by this Government rises to over $1 billion for nearly 5,000 small- and larger-scale projects.

The distribution of this $1 billion according to electorate is:

  • 54 per cent of the funding was allocated to projects in Labor-held electorates (Labor held 55.3 per cent of seats).
  • 42 per cent was allocated to Coalition electorates (the Coalition held 42.7 per cent of seats).
  • 4 per cent was allocated to Independent electorates (Independents represented 2.0 per cent of the House of Representatives).

In contrast, the ANAO’s 1,200-page, three-volume audit of the former Coalition Government’s discredited Regional Partnerships found that one-third of funding went to just 10 Coalition-held electorates.

In fact, under Regional Partnerships, the former Coalition Government allocated:

  • Less than 16 per cent of the funding to Labor held electorates.
  • More than 73 per cent or nearly three quarters of the funding to Coalition electorates.
  • The remainder to Independent electorates.

Some of the worst examples of waste under the Regional Partnerships program involved taxpayer funds being directed to private profit-making ventures without due diligence.

The Federal Labor Government acted swiftly during the global economic crisis to support employment in our local communities.

By delivering funding through local government, we ensured that communities received the benefits rather than individuals or private companies.

The priorities were determined by local councils which are not only elected by their communities, but also have their own audit processes in place through their respective State and Territory Governments.

As a result of our economic stimulus, Australia is amongst the best-performing advanced economies, with unemployment around half that of the US and Europe, and a budget deficit a small fraction of other developed countries.