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article imageOp-Ed: Australia’s defence farce, money wasted by the billions

By Paul Wallis     Mar 8, 2010 in Politics
The Sydney Morning Herald has just done Australia a tremendous favor in publishing defence force contracts since 1997. These figures include some incidents that would be too ridiculous for a game show.
The SMH article needs reading, not regurgitation, so having read it, read on.
This situation has persisted despite four reviews, heartbroken howls from the Auditor General, and is the product of the accumulated work of 21,000 people in the Department of Defence.
Looking at some of the items on The Sydney Morning Herald’s list, it’s a matter of opinion if anyone involved could cost a Big Mac.
Nor is it certain that the people responsible for Australia’s defence purchases could be trusted to buy a Big Mac. “Cost overruns” seem to be taken for granted. In the private sector, if you’re a supplier and your costs overrun, you pay for it, not the customer.
If the Department of Defence was sent out to buy a Big Mac, it’d take 5 years, and cost ten times as much as it did when they got the original quote. If they did a tender, it’d also have a Royal Commission appointed at some stage during the transaction.
A case in point: The cost of four new destroyers has as usual blown out to double the original cost, and now there’s only going to be three of them, in 2014. Meanwhile Spain got its four destroyers for under the original quote, and these ships are now operational.
This example is highly relevant, because at this point the equation goes from incompetence and embarrassment to corruption and inexcusable negligence on the part of management.
1. There is no point claiming that new systems were to be installed, if these were off the shelf systems.
2. Nor is there much new technology that actually needs to be customized on a standard destroyer design.
3. Why four years for delivery? A cost raising factor, perhaps?
Any naval person or their rubber duck would know that. So should anyone in a defence related role, including the tea lady. Why don’t they?
Why are inefficient suppliers being tolerated? A contract is a contract. Either the supplier delivers or they’re in breach of contract.
This is the same idiot organization that was about to contract to have Australian uniforms made in China, but the contractor disappeared or was eaten by a Teletubbie, or something.
The same holey institution that has two of our subs in drydock with systems problems.
The same dazzling monastic order of intellectual over achievement which has now been waiting for Sea King helicopters since almost before I was born.
Meanwhile our people in uniform can’t get danger money, have idiotic salary errors which they have to repay, get ridiculous compo for serious injuries, and are occasionally blessed with decent equipment. Despite which serious litany of potentially lethal situations, they do their jobs very well.
Here’s a few thoughts for you bludging bureaucratic Bogong fondlers:
1. Outsource all accounting functions to a security cleared business under the Auditor General’s oversight with random independent cross checks.
2. Start laying charges against whoever’s been responsible for this load of pig’s testicles trying to pass itself off as bona fide expenditure and a plausible form of financial management.
3. Start recovering money by sales of surplus acquisitions.
4. If necessary, abolish the Department of Defence in its present form. That’s 21,000 payrolls, must be worth something in terms of savings. Replace it with a fully manageable business unit of 10-50 people.
5. Sue all contracts not delivered on time, on budget, and in serviceable condition, no exceptions.
6. Charges should be laid in all cases related to expenditure where financial benefit to ADF can be derived from legal action, including prosecution of individuals.
The ADF as a whole should be aware that it’s under no obligation to tolerate this crap from anyone or anything. If any expenditure isn't in the guidelines, ADF doesn't have to do a damn thing about it. ADF command should vigorously, or preferably savagely, exercise its right to demand compliance with all legal commitments made to it for supply of anything and everything.
The Commonwealth government should also put the cleaners through the senior staff of the Department of Defence on the statutory and organizational level. This pitiful effort represents a total breakdown of all basic reporting requirements, procedures and even basic administration practices. A checkout chick would be sacked for this dog’s breakfast as a bank reconciliation. Why are senior bureaucrats being allowed to get away with it?
Politically, Liberal, Labor, Greens and others should understand that this obscene situation represents nothing more or less than total failure of management at all levels. It must end, now.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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