Inquiries launched into service delivery, privitisation and the Big Four accountants

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday August 2, 2019

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Two new parliamentary inquiries will look into the privatisation, outsourcing and service delivery of various government programs that have implications on public servants and the wider community.

One inquiry will look at service delivery in the visa and citizenship system as well as Centrelink’s robodebt system, and will be handled by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee. A report is due to be scheduled by 16 October. Labour hiring practices in the Department of Human Services (DHS), the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), and the public sector staffing cap will also be probed. 

Led by Labor, the motion passed the Upper House on Thursday, with support from Centre Alliance, One Nation, and Jacqui Lambie.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has welcomed the inquiries.

CPSU Secretary Nadine Flood said the matters which will be investigated have many implications.

“Cuts, outsourcing and privatisation have a massive impact on staff and on the quality of the vital public services and institutions that Australians rely on,” she said in a statement.

“Visa privatisation will cause the loss of thousands of jobs and turn visas into a profit-maker for companies connected to the Liberal government. Robodebt has caused untold suffering and hardship for thousands and thousands of Australians. The NDIS is not fulfilling its promise because of under-staffing and under-resourcing.

“And underlying all these problems are decisions by the Liberal government to cut and outsource the public service, and to put arbitrary limits on how many people the public service can employ to deliver these programs.”

The DHS has spent more than $800 million in the past two years on labour-hire contractors to outsource thousands of public service jobs, the Canberra Times noted.

A joint statement from former Labor leader-turned NDIS spokesperson Bill Shorten, opposition social services spokesperson Linda Burney, and opposition assistant spokesperson for immigration and citizenship Andrew Giles, said the government’s attempt to privatise the visa system has risked 2000 public sector jobs.

“Australians have lost faith in the government’s ability to administer and run programs essential to their lives and livelihoods, and this Senate inquiry is focused on ­exposing the flaws of outsourcing and privatisation within the Australian Public Service,” they said.

Home Affairs ­has denied the government’s $1 billion visa-processing tender was an attempt to privatise the system.

The second inquiry will examine government contracts with the Big Four accountants — Deloitte, EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young), KPMG and PwC — and the possible conflicts of interest in contracting them. Labor senator Deborah O’Neill referred the inquiry to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services. It will investigate whether their regulation practices are sufficient, with a report due in March.

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