Government’s $1.3 billion manufacturing grants shortlisted for audit office investigation

The $1.3 billion administration Grants from the Coalition’s flagship manufacturing program could come under the audit office’s microscope after being listed as a potential investigation next year, alongside several government technology projects.

Other programs shortlisted in ANAO’s work program include the $450 million digital ID program, modernization of the tax office’s business registry, and panel agreements that help consultants land contracts. lucrative government, as well as the areas of privacy and data protection in government digital services, cybersecurity, and digital health.

Stakeholders have been invited to provide feedback on the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) draft work program by 19 April.

The agency has uncovered the ‘Sports Rorts’ scandal and massive overspending on land at Western Sydney Airport, but has warned it will have to reduce the number of audits it carries out after successive budget cuts .

Industry Minister Angus Taylor – Image: Crawford Forum

“Awarding funding under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative” (MMI) has been listed as a potential audit topic for ANAO’s next fiscal year after growing concerns over the structure of the program and timing of grant announcements,” ANAO’s draft work program said.

“The audit would assess whether the allocation of funding under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative was efficient and in line with Commonwealth grant rules and guidelines.”

More than $600 million in MMI grants were announced in March under the program’s largest collaboration stream, which was set up in October 2020 to fund large, multi-partner manufacturing projects in key sectors.

Despite the closure of applications for the stream six months earlier and recommendations provided to the Minister of Industry and Prime Minister earlier this year, announcements were only made last month, with the first three being aimed at projects in South Australia as the Liberal Prime Minister at the time. Steven Marshall has started an election campaign.

Several other big collaboration stream announcements are expected ahead of the May 21 federal election, as is an additional $456 million in grants from MMI’s two smaller streams.

Labor has warned of changes to the schedule of the scheme and its unusual structure, which allows the PM to have the last call on the biggest grants, has ‘prepared’ rorts to the scheme, which is now in use like an “election slush”. funds”, the grants being withheld for political reasons.

On Friday, Shadow Industry Minister Ed Husic said MMI grants had been delayed to maximize the political impact of their announcements, to the detriment of local industry.

“You just can’t ask the government to turn every government program…into a slush fund. It is essentially one objective, one objective, to get the government re-elected. [It is] not good enough,” Mr Husic told Sky News.

The ANAO has listed the administration of MMI grants along with several other areas under the Industry, Science, Energy and Resources portfolio.

These include administering funding for controversial carbon capture, use and storage centers, contracts and compliance under the Emissions Reduction Fund, which pays polluters to reduce emissions , and supply for the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network and Northern Endeavor facility projects.

The $450 million digital ID program, which has been in development for six years but has yet to see legislation, was also shortlisted for a possible performance audit. He was also shortlisted last year by the watchdog.

The program is led by the Digital Transformation Agency with Services Australia managing its trusted digital identity framework and identity exchange components, while the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is responsible for service providers. digital identity through mygovID.

The ATO’s project management of the business register modernization program can also be reviewed.

“This audit would assess the effectiveness of the design, planning and early implementation of the MBR program by the ATO, including consultation with stakeholders and the introduction of the associated identification number initiative director (director id),” ANAO said.

The project began in 2017 and became a 2018 Budget pledge to consolidate business records. It has now received more than $480 million in funding, including the bulk of the government’s 2020 Digital Trade Scheme, which allocated $420 million to run the program over four years.

The tax office has outsourced huge parts of the project, mostly to Irish tech firm Accenture, which is paid $10 million a month to work on the MBR program. New Zealand registry software company Foster Moore also received $26 million over four years for its work on the project.

The use of the business advisory services panel was also listed as a potential benchmark for performance in the Finance and cross-portfolio areas.

The panel was created in 2015 and is due to expire in October. It is a cooperative procurement agreement managed by the Department of Finance designed to make tendering more efficient while maintaining value for money.

At the end of last year, around 50 vendors were listed on the Business Advisory Services Panel, including all major consulting firms. 134 Australian government agencies granted access and 625 contracts brought in a total of $511 million, according to ANAO.

ANAO said a performance audit would focus on whether use of the panel supported “value for money” goals and whether the panel had encouraged competition.

The Australian Digital Health Agency’s “delivery of a safe, secure and reliable digital health system” is also under audit after the difficult rollout of its main patient records system, My Health Record, which was controversially replaced by deactivation.

The Court of Auditors has already investigated the deployment in 2019 and made several recommendations. A second audit would look at the progress of the agency’s response as part of a wider investigation into the Australian Digital Health Agency’s “management of controls contributing to the delivery of a safe digital health system, secure and reliable”.

Cybersecurity management, privacy protection in digital service delivery, and management of customer information and data were also added to the draft work program.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley by email.

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