Inquiry to uncover hidden cost of Commonwealth outsourcing

The CPSU welcomes the announcement of a Parliamentary inquiry into the Commonwealth’s inefficent and opaque use of contractors, consultants and labour hire arrangements.

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit has announced the probe, which will build on the recent work of the Australian National Audit Office in examining the transparency and cost effectiveness of outsourcing Commonwealth work to the private sector.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “We’re pleased that this inquiry is being launched. This is a long overdue examination of the cost, effectiveness and lack of transparency that’s involved when private interests are invited in to profit from public services.”

“The audit office recently found Commonwealth procurement through contractors, consultants and labour hire totalled nearly $50 billion last financial year alone, and the Turnbull Government is looking for even more opportunities to line the pockets of private companies through these kinds of arrangements.”

“Multinational companies like KPMG, EY, PwC and Deloitte have reaped tens of millions of dollars through Commonwealth contracts, and the Turnbull Government is increasingly turning to labour hire arrangements that are bad for workers and bad for public services.”

“The Government announced in October it would pay Serco, a multinational company that’s previously run immigration detention centres while paying little or no tax, more than $50 million to provide Centrelink call centre services. Similarly, the Government’s in the final stages of outsourcing call centre work for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.”

“There are many problems with this growing use of outsourcing under the Turnbull Government. Firstly, using profit making enterprises generally means higher costs and lower quality services. Secondly, the hard-working people who actually provide the services end up being paid less without decent working conditions. And thirdly, there’s none of the transparency that is guaranteed when Commonwealth agencies do this work themselves.”

“The results speak for themselves. Major failures are occurring at an ever increasing rate as the Government’s cut public sector capacity and funnelled that money into outsourcing, from the 55 million calls to Centrelink that went unanswered last year to the robo-debt debacle and Census failure.”

“We will be arguing forcefully during this inquiry that the Turnbull Government’s love affair with outsourcing is an ideological obsession, and has absolutely nothing to do with providing good quality and cost-effective public services. We expect this committee to shine a light on the reality of the situation so that more rational policy decisions can be made in the future.”