The Auditor-General responded on 20 April 2018 to correspondence from Mr Stephen Jones MP dated 26 March 2018, requesting that the Auditor-General conduct an investigation to examine the awarding of a grant under the Regional Jobs and Investment Package program in Tropical North Queensland. 

Auditor-General's response

20 April 2018

Dear Mr Jones

I am writing in response to your letter of 26 March 2018 requesting an audit of the administration of the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages (RJIP) program, including concerns about probity.

My office is currently progressing work on the annual audit work program (work program).  The work program is designed to inform the Parliament, the public and government entities of planned audit coverage in 2018–19. Section 10 of the Auditor-General Act 1997 sets out that, in performing my functions and powers, I must have regard to the audit priorities of the Parliament as determined by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA).  I have therefore recently written to the JCPAA seeking comments on the draft work program. In addition to consulting with Parliament, I also consider it important to seek feedback from Australian Government entities and have therefore written to the accountable authorities that are the subject of proposed performance audit coverage. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) will also be inviting comment from the public on the draft program through the ANAO website over the period of 26 April to 10 May 2018.

The ANAO continues to have a focus on promoting transparency on the effective use of taxpayers money through audits of procurement processes, contract management and grants management.  It is in this context that I have noted your concerns in relation to the RJIP and have included a proposed audit topic on RJIP in the draft 2018-19 work program. The scope of the audit would cover the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities (which has overall responsibility for the program), as well as the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (whose Business Grants Hub plays an important role in the delivery of the RJIP) and include the application, assessment and decision-making processes.

Following receipt and consideration of all feedback, the work program will be published in early July 2018. The work program will include around 100 potential performance audit and assurance review topics, and provides details about our in-progress performance audit and assurance work. Throughout the year, a decision is made as to which audits will commence, based on information such as identified audit priorities, recent developments in the public sector, requests for audit, and resourcing.

Yours sincerely

Grant Hehir

Correspondence from Mr Stephen Jones MP

Correspondence from Mr Stephen Jones MP about the Regional Jobs and Investment Package program in Tropical North Queensland

Transcript of letter from Mr Stephen Jones MP

Mr Grant Hehir
Australian National Audit Office
GPO Box 707
Canberra ACT 2601

26 March 2018

Dear Mr Hehir,

I am writing in regard to the Regional Jobs and Investment Package Program for Tropical North Queensland administered by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Concerns have been raised about an award of a $2.4 million grant to QRX Group 1 under the program. Two specific allegations have been made:

  • that there may have been a conflict of interest associated with the chain of decision making;
  • that the grant may not meet the objectives of the program.

It has been alleged that a conflict arises because the Chair of the TNQ RJIP Committee which was established to identify investment priorities for the region, Mr Twomey also has a financial interest in the QRX Group 1, through his wife who is a one-third shareholder of that company.

This situation has raised concerns that the Cairns local investment plan was written to facilitate the awarding of this grant to QRX Group.

Separate allegations have been made the proposed project is not capable of creating the jobs which are central to the design of the scheme.

I am attaching copies of relevant articles from the Cairns Post where these concerns have been raised.

When allegations of this type are raised it is better for all parties that they are investigated by specialist and independent bodies. I therefore ask you to consider conducting an audit of this program Q provide an independent assessment of its administration.

Your sincerely,

Stephen Jones MP
Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government;
Shadow Minister for Regional Communications