The price of expediency: Nauru and Manus were exceptional circumstances

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has defended itself against critical findings in an Australian National Audit Office report on its handling of procurement for the Nauru and Manus Island immigration detention centres, arguing that, given tight timeframes and a complex operating environment, “decisions taken in this period were reasonable under the circumstances”.

ANAO argues the department’s management of procurement activity for garrison support and welfare — including things such as security, cleaning, catering, educational and health services — undertaken since 2012 have “fallen well short of effective procurement practice”.

DIBP was unable to show it had obtained value for money for Australian taxpayers in three of four procurement processes it ran. Some aspects of the department’s activities in establishing the facilities, consolidating the Nauru and Manus contracts and running an open tender did not comply with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules.

The auditor found “serious and persistent deficiencies”, particularly in the department’s management of processes for contract consolidation and the open tender “which reduced competitive pressure and significantly increased the price of the services without government authority to do so”. The open tender process was eventually cancelled with no outcome.

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