Libs ac­cused of spend­ing $100m on con­sul­tancy fees

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - EL­IZ­A­BETH HEN­SON

THE State Gov­ern­ment plans to spend more than $100 mil­lion on con­sul­tants over the next four years, and has al­ready bud­geted al­most $35 mil­lion for them in 2018-19, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures com­piled by the Op­po­si­tion.

La­bor has crunched the num­bers from State Bud­get doc­u­ments and the Gov­ern­ment’s own an­nounce­ments, and says $103.49 mil­lion has been ear­marked for con­sul­tants through to 2021-22.

They say this tally will likely in­crease be­cause it does not in­clude all con­sul­tancy costs racked up by in­di­vid­ual de­part­ments over the course of each year. Those costs are only re­vealed in the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s an­nual re­port at the end of each fi­nan­cial year.

In­cluded in the $103 mil­lion fig­ure is a bus re­view and stud­ies into the Women’s and Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, Ton­s­ley train sta­tion, and an Abo­rig­i­nal art gallery. Of this fouryear to­tal, the Gov­ern­ment in­tends to spend just un­der $35 mil­lion in 2018-19, when fac­tor­ing in a no­tional fig­ure for the Kor­daMen­tha health re­port into the new Royal Ade­laide Hos­pi­tal.

La­bor, which was crit­i­cised for its own con­sul­tancy costs while in power, has ac­cused the Gov­ern­ment of fail­ing to live up to its promise to re­duce its out­lay in this area.

How­ever, the Gov­ern­ment re­jects the claim, say­ing the Op­po­si­tion used to hide mil­lions of dol­lars in con­sul­tancy costs through tricky book­work when it ran the state.

In 2017-18, the gov­ern­ment – which was La­bor un­til the March elec­tion – spent $33 mil­lion on con­sul­tants, down from $42 mil­lion in the pre­vi­ous 12 months, ac­cord­ing to the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s 2017-18 an­nual re­port.

Op­po­si­tion trea­sury spokesman Stephen Mul­lighan, pic­tured, said the Gov­ern­ment had “got its pri­or­i­ties wrong”.

But Trea­surer Rob Lu­cas said the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s fig­ures were skewed, say­ing the for­mer La­bor gov­ern­ment “used to con­ceal some pay­ments to con­sul­tants by clas­si­fy­ing them as con­trac­tors”.

Mr Lu­cas said La­bor paid $349 mil­lion for con­trac­tors and con­sul­tants in 2017-18 and $336 mil­lion the year be­fore.

But there was no way to de­ter­mine how much was spent on con­trac­tors, such as clean­ers and bus ser­vice providers, and how much may have been spent on con­sul­tants.

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