The Auditor-General has been asked to investigate the Palmerston Hospital Project following this week’s revelations the Abbott-Turnbull Government paid $56 million to the Northern Territory’s CLP Government despite doubts any meaningful construction has taken place at the site.
Labor is a strong supporter of the Palmerston Hospital project, and committed $110 million for the hospital at the 2013 election.
However, despite promises by the CLP that construction would begin in 2014, the only work that has occurred at the site appears to have been a hole being dug, part filled with concrete, cameras invited for a media event with the CLP Minister, and then the hole filled over.
In spite of this, Department of Health officials this week told Senate Estimates they have accepted evidence from the NT Government that work on the site has commenced, clearing the way for a $35 million payment.
Labor has now written to the Auditor-General requesting a performance audit into the Project Agreement for the Health and Hospitals Fund-2010 Regional Priority Round Project in Palmerston.
The letter notes that:
“The Northern Territory Government has received $56 million from the Commonwealth, despite doubt that meaningful construction has so far commenced.
“Seven milestones were established as part of this Agreement, including a $20 million payment for ‘Site Services commence’, with a date due of July 2014 and report due November 2014, followed by a $35 million payment for the ‘Commence Construction’ milestone with a date due and report due in May 2015.
I understand these payments, in addition to a $1 million payment for the first milestone were made by the Commonwealth Department, despite due dates not being met.”
With Darwin Hospital close to capacity and the Liberals ripping over $600 million out of the Territory’s public hospitals over the next decade, Territorians cannot afford these stunts.
The Territory desperately needs Palmerston Hospital right now, but due to the CLP’s negligence and incompetence, it will be years before the first patient is treated.