Tom Koutsantonis, DIT held meetings “outside of established procurement process arrangements”

Monday 12 February, 2024

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis – and his department – have come under fire from the Auditor-General for keeping a probity advisor in the dark over three meetings relating to regional bus service contracts.

The Auditor-General found that secret meetings held outside of the established procurement process arrangements could “give rise to significant probity risks”.

The Auditor-General said:

“We found that three meetings were held during the procurement process between the Minister, senior DIT employees and potential proponents/proponents outside of established procurement process arrangements,” he said.

“Some of the potential proponents/proponents attended the meetings in their capacity as representatives of bus industry bodies. DIT advised us that the procurement was not discussed at these meetings.”

The Auditor-General found:

  • The probity advisor was not aware of these meetings.
  • No specific probity advice was received for these meetings and an assessment of the probity risks was not documented, including the rationale for not seeking probity advice.
  • Meeting records did not always sufficiently capture what was discussed.

He also identified some areas where processes and practices should be improved for future procurements, including “the approver of the purchase recommendation not completing a conflict of interest declaration and confidentiality agreement”.

He concluded that “DIT maintained sufficient documentation of the process consistent with appropriate probity standards, except in four specific areas”.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Vincent Tarzia, said the Auditor-Generals findings are alarming.

“Tom Koutsantonis and his department have a lot to answer for relating to these secret meetings that were kept from the probity officer,” Mr Tarzia said.

“We know meeting outside of the proper process and procedure framework are dangerous because proponents could be perceived to be getting favourable treatment for contracts – and in this case we are talking about regional bus service contracts.

“As a Minister Tom Koutsantonis must explain if these meetings were kept secret from the probity officer.

“Tom Koutsantonis must also explain why meeting records did not capture exactly what was discussed during the interactions with proponents.

“From the outside looking in, this type of behaviour from Tom Koutsantonis is alarming and raises serious questions about his judgment as Minister.”