The Auditor-General should provide advice urgently on whether it is appropriate for the Premier and other Ministers to be involved in Labor Party fundraising events organised through SA Progressive Business with bidders and advisers involved in a public-private partnership bidding process.
“For example, documents obtained under Freedom of Information demonstrate that during the expressions of interest and bidding processes for the $323 million ‘Super Schools’ project, companies like Abigroup, Babcock & Brown and Plenary Group all hosted or were involved with fundraising functions for SAPB,” Shadow Minister for Finance Rob Lucas said today.
“It is also known that a number of major legal and accounting firms acting as advisers to bidders have also helped organise fundraisers for SAPB and the Labor Party.
“Mr Rann and his Ministers have a major perception problem when the Labor Party is taking donations during a bidding process from people and companies associated with bidders for major PPP government projects, such as the $1.7 billion RAH and $323 million ‘Super Schools’ projects.”
Mr Lucas said that bidders for the $1.7 billion hospital project, such as Plenary, Bilfinger Berger, Hansen Yuncken, Grocon and Macquarie have all in the past been associated with SAPB fundraisers. It has also been widely publicised to SAPB members for some time that Plenary Group in November were to host an $1100 per head boardroom lunch in Melbourne with Mr Rann although the Government is now claiming it has been cancelled.
The current probity guidelines, as outlined by Minister Holloway in Parliament, are as follows:
“The protocols are that no minister or ministerial staff—apart from the Deputy Premier who … has carriage of these matters in a ministerial sense—should meet with any potential bidder or adviser to a bidder in connection with any PPP-related issue, nor discuss a PPP project directly or indirectly with any bidder or adviser to a bidder.”
(Hansard, Legislative Council, 11 November 2008)
“Given the seriousness of these perception problems, the Auditor-General should be asked to indicate whether during the bidding period for a major PPP project, persons and companies involved with the bidding process should be prevented from being involved with fundraising functions for SAPB and the Labor Party” he said.
“There is no doubt that many businesses in South Australia have formed the view that they have to donate through SAPB, because most of their rivals have also formed that view.”
Mr Lucas said the view of many businesses is summarised by John Blunt, Makris Group CEO, who, when asked why the Makris Group had donated over $180,000 in 2005-06 to the Labor Party, acknowledged:
John Blunt: “I mean, we have got business interests, as well, so we want good governance. We want to see things happen in this state.”
Matthew Abraham: “You want to be looked after, too?”
John Blunt: “Yeah, we want to make our projects happen, that’s for sure, but, you know, that’s a part of the way the system – you know, politics – works here.”
(891 ABC Radio, 2 May 2007)
“How can Mr Rann defend a system where he and his Labor Party are collecting money through the SA Progressive Business fundraising programme whilst the Government is also going through the process to decide which companies will win these lucrative government deals?