Audit Finds $188m of Taxpayers’ Money Overspent in BER Program

Steven Bobson, Europe & Americas Editor
December 07, 2010 /

NSW, Australia – School communities complained that their options for building facilities have not been met by the program of the government under the Building the Education Revolution (BER), which the state’s auditor-general said has cost the taxpayers $188 million higher than the estimated figure of the Department of Education.

Auditor-General of NSW Peter Achterstraat’s audit revealed that the Department of Education tolerated the managing contractors’ cost estimates that were $188 million higher than its own calculations and 40 per cent more than the appraisal of an independent surveyor.

Achterstraat lamented that the costs were relatively “higher than business as usual” but did not meet the needs of 41 of the 68 schools, though the construction of school facilities went about rapidly as targeted by the government.

Achterstraat said what the taxpayers wanted was a hall but what transpired was a library.

He suggested conducting an investigation into the substantial difference of the estimates of both parties, saying that the education department should mind only its own estimates.

Another report spearheaded by banker Brad Orgill, which was commissioned by the commonwealth, tagged the constructions as the worst in the BER program for having received 254 complaints and costing the highest price for every square meter.

However, NSW education minister Verity Firth attributed the soaring costs in the constructions to the fact that the program was started in a time when the economy was melting down. He added that the auditor’s estimates of the amount spent from the taxpayers’ money did not represent the actual figures, saying a clearer perspective into the costs of the program could be established only when they are finalized.

Firth admitted the department paid higher than the reasonable costs from the taxpayers’ money, but only in between five to ten percent, boasting the BER was able to save Australia from the recession, especially the employment rate amidst economic turmoil.

Leader of Opposition Barry O’Farrell said there must have been warnings from within the government of the soaring costs paid for the program, which according to him did not satisfy the taxpayers’ preference.

 

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