Ombudsman Report into Politicisation Vic

The report by Ombudsman Deborah Glass yesterday paints a damning picture of the rampant corruption of Victoria’s public service under Daniel Andrews and Jacinta Allan.

The Victorian Ombudsman’s report into the alleged politicisation of the public sector has found examples of rushed and shoddy recruitment practices, marginalisation of public servants, a fear of speaking out and an over-use of direct appointments often involving former ministerial staffers in the public service.

The Victorian Ombudsman has particularly slammed Labor for its political management of the Suburban Rail Loop (SRL), which according to the state Opposition, is the most expensive project in Victoria’s history.

Handing down the findings of a two-year probe, outgoing Ombudsman Deborah Glass unveils a culture of fear and secrecy, and warned of the risk to public funds if public servants are left out in preference to external consultants for the state’s major projects such as the $125 billion Suburban Rail Loop.

Explicitly saying the Suburban Rail Loop project was conceived and announced for electoral gains in 2018, the report says:

“As part of this, we examined the appointment of a former Ministerial staffer to an executive role at a key infrastructure agency, and how this influenced early phases of the Government’s flagship transport project, the Suburban Rail Loop (‘SRL’). Construction of the SRL was directly tied to the ALP’s electoral prospects at the 2018 Victorian election, held less than three months after the project was announced.

“Those within Government who were excluded from the project – including the State’s then transport and economic development Secretary – were left wondering why specialist Departmental knowledge was left untapped…”.

The report claims the SRL project was the brainchild of one senior executive at the newly-formed Development Victoria agency. That senior executive was a former Ministerial staffer.

“We examined the appointment of a former Ministerial staffer, Executive S, to a key infrastructure agency, Places Victoria (later merged into Development Victoria), and how this influenced the early development of Victoria’s flagship transport infrastructure project, the Suburban Rail Loop (‘SRL’).

Supporting the state Opposition’s claim of cost blowouts, independent reviews by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (‘VAGO’) and the Parliamentary Budget Office (‘PBO’) have since raised question marks over key assumptions underpinning the SRL, suggesting its cost will be much greater than originally estimated.

Leader of the Opposition, John Pesutto, said: “This damning report further demonstrates the deterioration of integrity in government under Labor.

“Victorians deserve and desperately need a return to good governance that focuses on their needs. A government that delivers the services they need. A government that is committed to integrity, transparency and accountability.”

Shadow Special Minister of State, David Hodgett, said: “Victoria desperately needs a return to good governance that is fully focused on delivering better outcomes for Victorians.

“Daniel Andrews and Jacinta Allan have overseen a culture of fear and they have used the public sector to deliver for the Labor Party instead of delivering for Victorians.

“Integrity in government matters. A politicised public service can’t deliver the best possible health, education, infrastructure and community safety services Victorians need and deserve.”

Reprieve on Commonwealth Games appointments
It will perhaps be a little relief to Premier Allan that the report has not found inappropriate political considerations in relation to appointments made on the botched Commonwealth Games.

“We did not identify any evidence inappropriate political considerations influenced how Commonwealth Games positions at DJPR were filled. Those we interviewed said they did not witness any inappropriate political intrusion into their work,the report noted.

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