Audit finds car park scheme advice issues

The public service is obliged to offer advice on government schemes, ANAO's Rona Mellor says.
The public service is obliged to offer advice on government schemes, ANAO's Rona Mellor says.

Infrastructure department officials say they will implement advice from the national audit office to ensure future schemes such as the controversial commuter car park grants meet appropriate standards.

The parliamentary audit committee heard from Australian National Audit Office and infrastructure department officials on Friday in relation to the government's $660 million Commuter Car Park Fund.

The hearing followed the tabling on Thursday of a Senate report blasting the scheme.

The report found the fund did not grant money in an effective or merit-based way and it was "clear executive government and decision makers are not being held to account ... for corrupt and otherwise questionable behaviour".

Representatives from the infrastructure department, responsible for delivering CCPF projects, told the committee they had provided alternative advice to the government.

This included an open process to seek submissions to determine beneficiaries of the fund.

But the government decided on a different approach.

"There is a step in the process we would have intended to have occurred but it didn't occur in this instance," deputy secretary David Hallinan said.

The audit office found while there was nothing wrong with the closed process undertaken by the government, the department could have been more insistent on other options.

Deputy auditor-general Rona Mellor said even if a government takes a decision, it is up to the public service to "put the best foot forward" in terms of providing advice.

"We didn't see that. We saw little advice, no risk management and no implementation planning," she said.

The department said it agreed with the ANAO recommendations and would implement them for future schemes.

Australian Associated Press