Major transport projects are a magnet for politicians. They prefer to keep the details of how they have decide to fund a project secret. To avoid the scrutiny that the public demands. Only eight of 32 projects worth more than A$500m that Australian. Governments have commit to in 2016 according to the Grattan’s Institute analysis. A business case is a document that documents the key elements of an argument. For why a project is worthwhile and the best option to solve a problem.
Any government that is considering large spending commitments should have business cases. These cases help decision-makers determine. Whether a project or other policy is worth the investment and if it is better than alternative options. It is shameful that the federal and state governments invest in major projects. Without publishing these assessments, and sometimes without doing them.
No size is a barrier. There was no published business case at the time of commitment even for the biggest $5 billion-plus projects. Such as the 24 km Sydney Metro West rail tunnel between Sydney’s CBD and Parramatta. The Melbourne Airport Rail and the 10 km Torrens-to-Darlington section of Adelaide’s North South Corridor. These politicians are commit to these projects without sharing. Their knowledge or knowing if it is in the community’s best interest to build them.
These 32 projects received both federal and state funding. Only six of the 22 large infrastructure projects for which the federal. Government had committed a contribution in 2016 had a business case published by Infrastructure Australia. This federal agency was establish in 2008 to offer independent advice to governments about infrastructure.
There were 16 projects that did not have business cases. 14 of them were identify as initiatives by Infrastructure Australia, meaning they could reach a national significant problem or opportunity. Their assessment was not complete when they were commit.
The two remaining projects are Stage 2 and Albion Park Bypass. Both on the Princes Highway in NSW, south of Wollongong. These two projects, which total more than A$2 trillion, were not on Infrastructure Australia’s. Priority list when the state governments committed.
Infrastructure Australia stated in a 2018 report about decision-making. Principles that too often we see projects committed to before a complete. Set of options has been consider and a rigorous analysis of the potential project’s costs and benefits has been perform.
It is true that 11 major transportation projects were able to make a business case for themselves later. The Victorian government, for instance, released last month the business and investment case to fund the first stage in its Suburban Rail Loop. This is three years after the announcement of its commitment to the project.
After the investment on Stage 1 of Sydney’s F6 motorway and several sections of Queensland’s M1 Pacific motorway as well as Tasmania’s largest project, the Bridgewater Bridge that crosses the Derwent River in Hobart, we have also witnessed business cases poker pelangi.
Transparency is not just a problem in business cases. In Australia, there is no standard way to publish information about tender process outcomes, such as who was awarded, what the process was, and the contract value. It can be difficult to find even if it is published.
Research by The Grattan Institute shows that NSW publishes more information than any other state, publishing tender and contract information as a routine in a central registry. Queensland has the lowest level of information and is able to publish less information in central locations.
Politicans may try to defend their secrecy by saying that they are elected to make the decisions. Even those you might think would support governments are more likely to choose the shadows of those who advise and build the major projects.
The Grattan Institute hosted an August webinar with Acciona Geotech’s Bede Noonan, McConnell Dowell’s Chris Lock, as well as Owen Hayford, Infralegal’s expert legal advisor. All agreed that governments should at least have public business cases.
They argued that this was not only a matter of public accountability but also an opportunity to convince the community about the merits and to encourage more innovative ideas.
They are correct. While transparency is not essential, it is an important aspect. It is important that governments publish all information: tender documents, business cases, contract values, basis for claims for major projects, evaluation criteria, and post-completion reviews.