Confidentiality in government contracts still too common: audit

Federal agencies are still falling short of full compliance with a Senate Standing Order introduced in 2001 to improve the public transparency of government contracting, according to the auditor general Grant Hehir.

The order requires ministers to table lists of all significant contracts and agreements in their respective portfolio areas, highlighting those that contain confidentiality clauses of any sort and outlining the justifications for them.

The Australian National Audit Office’s report explains the reporting practices it observed are “not always adequate or reliable enough to meet the requirements of the Order” despite it being in place for well over a decade and audited every year. “Transparency of contract information can be affected as a result,” the report warns.

In 2014, there were confidentiality provisions in 1855 of the 41,469 Commonwealth contracts reported in the lists. The opaque deals were worth $30.1 billion, or 13.9% of the $216.3 billion total.

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