13 June 2024

TIA welcomes Senate Inquiry Report on Federal Government’s use of consultants

Transparency International Australia (TIA) welcomes the report by the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee, which calls for new regulations to govern the federal government’s extensive use of consultants.

The 12 recommendations must be swiftly implemented to enhance transparency, accountability, and ethical standards in government contracting and further reduce the government’s use of consultancy firms.

“This report has shone a giant spotlight on the government failure to properly regulate the use consultancy firms,” said Clancy Moore, CEO, Transparency International Australia. “It’s a damning indictment of the Commonwealth’s overreliance on consultancy firms over the last two terms of parliament, related integrity failings, and a lack of accountability.”

“We support the government’s continued overhaul in the use of consultancy firms, improvements to reduce and better manage conflict of interests, greater transparency over contracts, and moves to bolster public service capability.”

“To help restore trust and reduce the risk of corruption, businesses when contracted by government must act with highest standards of integrity, transparency and act in the public interest at all times.”

Despite ongoing scandals, consulting firms including the Big 4 continue to secure lucrative government contracts. While PwC remains under intense scrutiny with 10 ongoing investigations, including a federal police inquiry, related to the tax leak scandal, it continues to win government contracts.

In previous years, Australia’s consultancy spend is among the highest in the world, and double that of comparable countries like Canada or Sweden. But its reliance on the private sector comes at the cost of growing public sector capability and confidence in government. With it too, a culture of impunity, ethical failings, and conflicts of interest that have shown up in the recent scandals.

TIA supports additional recommendations by the Greens, including addressing the revolving door between consultancy firms and government positions, establishing a new federal whistleblower agency, requiring consultancy and accounting firms to have the same whistleblower obligations as corporations under the Corporations Act, and restricting political donations from consultancy firms during contract periods.

Find the full report here