SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
JULIAN HILL MP
DEPUTY CHAIR, JOINT COMMITTEE OF
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS AND AUDIT
MEMBER FOR BRUCE
BUNGLED $220 MILLION PRIVATISATION OF NATIONAL CANCER SCREENING REGISTER SLAMMED BY GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED COMMITTEE
In a scathing report, the powerful Joint Standing Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) slammed the Government’s failure to deliver the lifesaving National Cancer Screening Register for cervical and bowel cancer, and recommends that the Government consider terminating the bungled $220 million contract with Telstra Health.
The Liberal Government’s disastrous handling of their own privatisation of the critical cancer screening register has cost taxpayers millions, and risked the lives of Australian women due to delays with the new cervical cancer screening program replacing the old pap-smear test.
The failings are so serious that the unanimous report recommended:
“The Committee recommends…whether, in the circumstances of such serious under performance by Telstra Health, it may be in the Commonwealth’s interest to terminate the contract and pursue other options…”
Recommendation 11, 4.29, Report 472, JCPAA.
Just days before the 2016 election the Government rushed to sign a questionable contract after a dodgy tender process, in which senior Health department staff owned Telstra shares but did not declare them.
The tender evaluation process was so flawed that the department could not rule out the possibility that Telstra Health may not even have won the contract if the department had followed its own tender evaluation plan.
Despite the urgency to privatise the register before the 2016 election, the bowel cancer screening component is nowhere to be found and the old paper-based system continues.
Telstra Health and the Department of Health cannot even guess when it might commence, leaving the Committee to order six-monthly report backs on progress.
Concerns were raised during the inquiry regarding the impact on of the lengthy delay on mortality rates of Australian women, as the register and new HPV test were intended to ‘prevent an additional 140 cervical cancers each year’ and decrease mortality and morbidity rates by at least 15%.
The Committee also required the Department of Health to:
- investigate what penalties the Commonwealth could impose on Telstra Health for failing to deliver on the contract,
- regularly report back with updates on the rollout of the register, including an actual rollout date for the bowel cancer register,
- seek advice from the Australian Public Service Commission as to the adequacy of the Department’s response to revelations that a senior health official voted for Telstra Health as a preferred tenderer while owning undeclared Telstra shares, and
- report back to the Committee on whether the Auditor-General was provided with access to all departmental records when undertaking his audit.
The Minister for Health must apologise to Australians for this appalling mess and explain what he is going to do to fix it.
WEDNESDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2018