The acting Auditor-General responded on 29 February 2024 to correspondence from Hon. Catherine King MP dated 29 January 2024, requesting that the Auditor-General to conduct an assurance review of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) Aids to Navigation (AtoN) procurement.

Acting Auditor-General's response

29 February 2024

The Hon Catherine King MP
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional
Development and Local Government
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600
By email: minister.king@mo.infrastructure.gov.au

Dear Minister

Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Aids to Navigation procurement

I am writing in response to your letter dated 29 January 2024 (received on 9 February 2024) requesting that I conduct an assurance review into the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) Aids to Navigation (AtoN) procurement. I have decided to conduct a performance audit of the Procurement of Aids to Navigation maintenance which has now commenced.

The objective of the audit is to assess the effectiveness of the AMSA’s management of the AtoN maintenance procurement. The audit will examine whether the procurement process complied with the relevant requirements of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules.

I expect that the audit report will be presented to Parliament in June 2024.

Yours sincerely

Rona Mellor PSM

Acting Auditor-General

Correspondence from Hon. Catherine King MP

Request for audit letter from Hon Catherine King MP page 1
Request for audit letter from Hon Catherine King MP page 2

Transcript of letter from Hon Catherine King MP

Mr Grant Hehir
Auditor-General
Australian National Audit Office
GPO Box 707
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Dear Mr Hehir,

We write to request an urgent assurance review of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) Aids to Navigation (AtoN) procurement (AusTender 22AMSA117).

The procurement was released on 23 August 2022 and closed on 27 February 2023. It included two components - AtoN Maintenance and Level 1 Emergency Towage. Both components of the procurement are now complete.

One tender was received for the AtoN maintenance services component, from the current provider Australian Maritime Safety (AMS) Group. At the completion of its assessment, AMSA advised that the AMS Group response did not meet the tender requirements, and that there was insufficient detail for AMSA to be able to make any further assessment. As a result, AMSA did not award a contract for that component of the combined procurement.

Since being notified they were not successful in the AtoN procurement, AMS Group have raised concerns regarding deficiencies with the tender process and the decision not to award a contract. Their most recent correspondence also raised concerns of bias by AMSA staff towards AMS Group.

AMSA has advised us the procurement was undertaken in line with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. An independent probity adviser was engaged with the intention of ensuring integrity and compliance through the process. Additionally, an independent audit of the procurement, requested by the AMSA Board, supported the conclusion that the procurement met relevant legal requirements.

However, given the ongoing and serious nature of the concerns raised by AMS Group, we seek your agreement to conduct an urgent assurance review of this procurement as soon as possible. We consider a review by the ANAO is the best approach to ensure transparency and public trust in government procedures, giving assurance that ethical procurement processes have been followed.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Aits has discussed this proposed approach with officers from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Finance, who support this referral.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely

Catherine King MP
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government
Jim Betts
Secretary, Department of Infrastructure, Transport Regional Development, Communications and the Arts

29 January 2024