Tuesday 21 June 2016
New South Wales stands to lose up to twenty percent of the $41.5 billion allocated in the state budget today for transport infrastructure as it lacks the capacity to scope projects properly and control project costs.
Professionals Australia said the NSW Government’s ability to deliver critical infrastructure projects is in question because successive governments have eroded their engineering skills base.
“Project estimates in today’s budget are widely optimistic given the overruns we are likely to see as a result of poor project management. We can expect these projects to cost up to twenty percent more to deliver given the poor state of engineering capacity,” said Paul Davies, Director of Professionals Australia NSW.
“We welcome the long overdue investment in NSW infrastructure which offers a chance to drive productivity growth and improved services for NSW community and business. Unfortunately these benefits risk being undercut if the Government does not invest in its internal engineering capability.
“Government must use its spending power to improve workforce capability. That means not only hiring more engineers now, but investing over the long-term with cadet programs, structured mentoring, professional recognition and skill retention in the public sector.
“We call on the NSW Government to reform procurement processes and ensure engineers are engaged and input their expertise from project inception.
“Spending on transport projects is at an historic high, so there is already pressure on the state’s engineering labour market. We would like the Government to establish an Engineering Workforce Development Council which will help spread the burden of capability constraints, identify and mainstream best practice workforce development activities and better integrate business and industry needs with education sector practice.
“The Baird Government must commit to retaining and building engineering capabilities or we will continue to see taxpayer funds wasted. Ultimately taxpayers will be left holding the bill as projects run overtime and over-budget.
“The average cost blowout across all infrastructure projects is 6.5 percent, and for major projects it’s a huge 12.7 percent. This waste is entirely avoidable. We know that having more engineers in government and the public sector saves money and improves public safety – and yet the Government continues to cull its skilled workforce.
“Investing in infrastructure is the first critical step in making sure people in New South Wales have access to the high quality services they deserve. It is essential that all investment in infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to sustaining and developing the government’s in-house engineering capability.
“Our report Better Infrastructure, found that 80% of engineers believe that governments no longer have sufficient in-house expertise to avoid wasting huge amounts of taxpayer dollars.
“We urge the Baird Government to secure taxpayer funding announced for infrastructure by committing to retain and build its in-house engineering capability. This is the only way the Government can avoid wasting millions of taxpayer funds, and get the best – and safest – results for the community,” said Mr Davies.
Media contact: Siobhan Lyttle 0481 751 579