Attorney-General Michael Atkinson’s department was going to spend up to $8 million extra over 10 years so lawyers could have their own separate office, contrary to current government office accommodation guidelines.
In evidence to today’s meeting of the Legislative Council Budget and Finance Committee, Jerome Maguire (Justice Department Chief Executive) confirmed that he had made a submission to the Government Office Accommodation Committee (GOAC) in May 2007 about the 10 year leasing deal, Liberal MLC Rob Lucas said today.
“Mr Maguire’s submission highlights that he had employed a consultant to support their case that lawyers in the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) should keep their separate offices, contrary to GOAC guidelines,” Mr Lucas said.
“GOAC guidelines require that only 10 per cent of staff should be accommodated in enclosed offices; however, Mr Maguire conceded they had argued for and succeeded in getting more than 40 per cent of their staff kept in separate offices!
“As a result, the AGD needed 13,372 m² of office space, whereas if GOAC guidelines had been followed it should have been closer to 11,000 m². These extra 2,372 m² of office space at an estimated $350 per m² would cost about an extra $800,000 per year, or $8 million over the 10 year leasing proposal.
“There is concern in other parts of the public service at the “sweetheart” deal done for lawyers when it is argued other public servants similarly have argued their need for separate offices only to be rejected.
“Mr Atkinson needs to explain publicly whether he believes this $8 million extra spent on his department’s office accommodation is the highest priority for spending taxpayers’ money of this magnitude.
“Mr Maguire in his evidence today confirmed there was ongoing discussion about possible upgrades for Ministerial offices, such as for Mr Atkinson, but could not yet confirm estimated costs because final decisions had not yet been taken.”