A massive scandal was brewing over the $1.7 billion hospital project given confirmation today that confidential costing information was lost on a missing USB memory stick, Shadow Minister for Finance Rob Lucas said today.
“Whilst the Rann Government has been coy for weeks about what information was on the missing USB memory stick, information from within the Health Department and today’s evidence by Under Treasurer Jim Wright has confirmed that the USB contained confidential costing information which underpinned the Government’s costings of the hospital project,” Mr Lucas said.
The following was revealed during today’s meeting of the Legislative Council Budget and Finance Committee:
Hon R Lucas: “You must have been advised now, as the chair of that committee. The information given to me from within Health is that it does include the confidential costings that the government relies on to put together its public sector comparator. It might not be the full public sector comparator, but it includes the confidential costings, which would be of immense benefit to any of the bidders. Have you been advised of that?
Mr J Wright: “The Government Investigation Unit report will address all of those things, hopefully with more certainty than they have been addressed so far.
Hon R Lucas: “I am asking you now: have you been advised of that or not?
Mr J Wright: “There have been suggestions that that is the case.
Hon R Lucas: “When you say 'suggestions', have officers within Health provided you with memos and/or verbal advice at the steering committee meetings that that sort of information is on the computer stick that has now established that that is the case?
Mr J Wright: “They have told me that they believe there is sensitive information on the stick.
Hon R Lucas: “Sensitive costing information is my question to you.
Mr J Wright: “Yes; that is certainly a possibility.”
“If this information is available to any bidder, then they will have a tremendous competitive advantage over all other bidders. Equally, the taxpayers’ interest or public interest has been jeopardised by the loss of this confidential information,” he said.
“If there is not already an inquiry being conducted by the Auditor General, then it should be instituted urgently.
“Given the circumstances, consideration by internal and external probity auditors without transparency is not sufficient to ensure the public interest has been protected.
“The Rann Government’s suggestion that probity concerns will be resolved by asking bidders to sign an assurance they won’t take advantage of any information they get is frankly laughable.
“Mr Foley and Mr Hill have to take responsibility for this probity scandal and they need to explain why security arrangements were so slack that a departmental officer was able to download all this confidential information and walk out the door with it!”