TRADIES SCREWED

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - KYLAR LOUSSIKIAN

TWO Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment fat cats on mas­sive salar­ies have left the pub­lic ser­vice af­ter wast­ing more than $20 mil­lion over four years on a scheme to help tradies that has been so bun­gled it still hasn’t got off the ground.

The Aus­tralian Ap­pren­tice­ships Man­age­ment Sys­tem, meant to track tradies study­ing skills to help the gov­ern­ment man­age short­falls in vi­tal sec­tors, is $15 mil­lion over its ini­tial bud­get, has been re­viewed 11 times and is so un­us­able it has been sus­pended with­out be­ing fi­nalised.

The to­tal cost to the pub­lic will be at least $24 mil­lion, with the final re­view by Price­wa­ter-house-Coop­ers cost­ing $185,497

alone. The Daily Tele­graph can re­veal depart­ment deputy sec­re­tary Subho Ban­er­jee left his po­si­tion ear­lier this month.

He had taken “per­sonal leave” for most of April just days af­ter be­ing forced to clar­ify in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion given about the scheme dur­ing Par­lia­men­tary hear­ings. Emails re­veal Dr Ban­er­jee, who earned up to $350,000, over­saw the pro­gram. Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment sec­re­tary Michelle Bruniges told staff on April 4 that “Subho Ban­er­jee is on per­sonal leave for the next month” and on May 1 wrote he had “de­cided to leave ... to pur­sue other op­por­tu­ni­ties”.

A se­nior man­ager in Mr Ban­er­jee’s of­fice has also left.

Dr Ban­er­jee could not be reached for com­ment, and an Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment spokesman de­clined to an­swer ques­tions. Dr Ban­er­jee was ini­tially ques­tioned about the scheme, which was meant to be fin­ished by July 2016, by La­bor skills spokesman Doug Cameron.

He said the waste of money was “an­other ma­jor blow to the ap­pren­tice­ship sys­tem”. The gov­ern­ment’s Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Agency was forced to step in late last year af­ter it found a “wors­en­ing over­all sta­tus” from “Am­ber to Red”.

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