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Less than frank and not quite fearless

By James Murphy


The Victorian auditor-general’s criticism of the quality of bureaucratic advice on the contentious East West Link raises broader concerns about the public service LAST week’s Victorian audit office report on Melbourne’s controversial East West Link project leaves few involved in the project unburned. In a searing appraisal, the state Coalition, the Labor Party, the public service and even the private consortium contracted to build the link are found to have been negligent and imprudent, and to have taken unacceptable risks with taxpayer dollars or told less than the whole truth. “From its inception to its termination,” auditor-general Peter Frost writes, “the EWL project was not managed effectively.” In fact, the whole process was so flawed that “it will become an important marker in the history of public administration in this state.” Have we learned anything from this? Listening to the state treasurer, Tim Pallas, and his opposite number, Michael O’Brien, trading blows last week, it was hard to believe we have. Both deny responsibility and point the finger at the other, cherry-picking findings and vying to appear the most outraged. More surprising, however, is the battle over the role of the public service in this billion-dollar fiasco. Behind all the bluster is a serious debate, not just about the quality of officials’ advice about the project but also about their role in our system of government… Read the full articl

Topics: Government policy, Transportation, Bureaucracy
Publisher: Inside Story
Year: 2015
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