Professionals Australia has urged the Government to invest in engineering capacity to get the best value from its infrastructure spend, in a submission to the National Commission of Audit.
Professionals Australia has made a strong case for investment in engineers – if the Government wants to achieve its program of infrastructure delivery.
CEO Chris Walton said “If the Government allows for a situation to arise where there is a shortage of infrastructure delivery expertise in its ranks, it becomes an uninformed purchaser, which means costs and delivery timeframes blow-out”.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing this play out in every jurisdiction, from the federal and state settings, right down to local government.
“We know what happens when there are not enough engineers. There is waste. There are project over-runs. And there are increased costs.
“At the same time the situation creates an adversarial climate between governments and the private sector that leads to disputation and costs for industry and governments of around $6 billion per annum.
“Professionals Australia has urged the Government to invest in engineers – to get the best value from its infrastructure spend and to ensure it works effectively with the private sector.”
It is not just Professionals Australia saying this.
Columnist Judith Sloane wrote in The Australian (In Infrastructure they don hard hats for a reason, 5 October 2013) “the cost of building infrastructure is far too high – 20 to 30 percent above what would be regarded as reasonable”, this accords with Blake Dawson’s research in 2010 that projects of $1 billion, ran at least 20 per cent over budget.
According to the latest ABS data, $32.9 billion was spent in the last year on infrastructure by governments. If 20 per cent is being wasted because of poor scope, design and disputation – we are wasting more than $6 billion a year.
A better way forward
Professionals Australia believes that private sector involvement in the delivery of infrastructure brings massive benefit. It has the potential to maximise the use of taxpayer’s dollars, deliver innovation and to improve our capacity. That potential remains unfulfilled, because governments don’t have expertise to work with them and don’t know what they are buying.
A huge backlog to meet – we need the skills
Infrastructure Partnerships Australia estimates a backlog of $770 billion in infrastructure investment.
Stakeholders and government representatives have agreed on a set of solutions which would save the Commonwealth billions and ensure we never see a repeat of poorly delivered infrastructure programs.
These proposals would:
- Ensure the government and the taxpayer gets value for money
- Ensure the private sector could deal with a better client – cutting disputation and waste.
- Minimise project delays
- Enhance public safety
- Develop the capacity of government and private sector to deliver projects.
Australia can’t afford to waste one dollar of its infrastructure spend. The Federal Government needs to build capacity for its own procurement.