Submission to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation Partnership 2050
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Submission to the Inquiry into the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program (PDF, 123 KB, 2 July 2018)
The Science Party's submission to this inquiry noted that the earmarking of $444 million dollars to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) was unprecedented; the gifting of a sum this large is usually accompanied by a tendering or grant process. Failing that, the awardee should at least have a strong track record in managing similar dollar amounts.
Shockingly, the GBRF grant does not come close to satisfying any of these requirements. There was no competitive selection process and the grant amount is tens of times larger than the organisation's annual budget. It's also difficult to figure out what the foundation actually does.
We would have liked to have researched the potential conflicts of interest surrounding the GBRF board members, many of whom have strong corporate ties, as well as the capability and suitability of alternative organisations to manage the funds.
Unfortunately for that aim of ours, the timeframe for the enquiry was much shorter than usual, presumably because this is a current matter that is not yet settled (it is our understanding that the funds in question have not yet been transferred to the foundation). If this is the case, then we hope the initiative is put on hold and subjected to further scrutiny before it goes ahead, hopefully in a different format.
The potential harm to the reef if we don't change our trajectory is devastating. To save the health of the reef, it is not enough to just allocate the necessary funding; we must also to spend it wisely. Further, bypassing the usual mechanisms demonstrates a shameful lack of accountability on the government's behalf.
NOTE: The deadline for submissions has been extended to 15th August, after which time the parliamentary committee will report on its findings.
UPDATE: We're very glad to see that the inquiry's final report quoted a few paragraphs from our submission. We thank everyone who contributed material, as well as all of our supporters who keep the bills paid and the election machine staffed with volunteers so those with a special interest in these inquiries can continue to write submissions like these.
On page 61, regarding Choice of an organisation outside of government:
"It is simply not acceptable to give such a large amount (or any amount) of public money in such an unprecedented manner, to an organisation that has neither planned nor applied for it.
The absurdity of the grant is heightened by the fact that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA; the agency established by the government to manage and advise on the reef) has an annual budget in the tens of millions, considerably greater than that of the GBRF, but well below the grant amount."
And on page 74, regarding Ensuring transparency in funding decisions:
"Probity is a requirement for procurement in the public sector. With no such requirement imposed on the GBRF and without a requirement that contracts be publicly tendered, the process of disseminating the $444m grant becomes open to abuse. There is even the possibility for other entities to 'buy' favour for contracts on projects using a donation to the GBRF. These donations could then be claimed against tax."
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