Langoulant Inquiry into Govt Programs and Projects during Barnett years finds ‘deficiencies from cabinet down’

Perth Children's Hospital will get its first patients on May 14.
Perth Children's Hospital will get its first patients on May 14.

AN INQUIRY into Government Programs and Projects during the Colin Barnett years has revealed “deficiencies in government from cabinet down”.

Commissioned in May last year, Premier Mark McGowan tabled the report in Parliament today, covering projects including Perth Children’s Hospital, facilities management and support services at Fiona Stanley Hospital, Royalties for Regions, Optus Stadium and the Swan River pedestrian bridge.

MORE: Inquiry into Govt Programs and Projects slams $4.3b Serco contract at Fiona Stanley Hospital

MORE: Barnett Govt ‘lost control’ of $91.5m Swan River Pedestrian Bridge project – report

Special inquirer John Langoulant, WA under treasurer from 1995 to 2004, said certain themes became obvious extremely early in the process.

“Even in the time period when revenue was good, we were spending so much our debt was growing by 400 per cent,” he said.

“In the course of (the Barnett-led) government, because there was no plan, everyone thought they could get a share of the cake.”

Mr Langoulant invited Mr Barnett to attend an inquiry hearing, but Mr Barnett declined as he believed it was a political process.

A letter is included in the inquiry report, in which Mr Barnett said he regarded “the whole exercise as being politically motivated”.

Mr Langoulant dismissed the statement.

“This was so far away from a witch hunt that that claim just doesn’t stand,” he said.

Systemic issues uncovered by the inquiry included the absence of a whole-of-State priorities plan, destabilisation from the Royalties for Regions program, and high volatility of commodity prices not being incorporated into more conservative budget settings, leaving the State exposed in the economic downturn.

Mr Langoulant also raised the importance of training for parliamentarians in different areas.

“We ask them to come almost off the street and become a minister and manage billions of dollars without a training program,” he said.

“I saw a cabinet being provided with information that was not adequate; they were prepared to accept it.”

The special inquirer said the authority of central agencies like the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and Treasury was run down.

“During the course of the interviews and discussions we had with the agencies, there was a lack of common purpose across the public sector,” he said.

“Most of the agencies were in it for themselves instead of working in a collaborative way.”

After examining 31 programs and projects over the 2008-17 period, the special inquirer said three quarters fell into the “jury’s out” or poor category.

“I feel for (the current) government, they’ve been dealt an impossible hand; their circumstances are beyond belief,” Mr Langoulant said.

Cases in the poor category included the Serco contract at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

“The absence of a stand-alone business case to underpin the $4.3 billion Serco contract was the worse case of financial risk taking for the State to be reviewed,” Mr Langoulant said.

One-hundred-and-seven whole-of-government recommendations have been made, which Mr Langoulant said will amount to major changes in the way the government operates.

State Govt to be guided by findings

PREMIER Mark McGowan has promised his Government will be guided by the Langoulant inquiry findings.

“My Government will continue to strengthen governance, accountability, transparency and focus on the key economic and social benefits of government decisions when dealing with taxpayers’ money,” he said immediately after tabling the Langoulant report.

Mr McGowan said the former government should apologise to the people of WA.

MORE: Rockingham security firm Sureguard Security fined for underpaying workers

MORE: Nowergup limestone company fined for having hazardous workplace

MORE: Utility left hanging precariously