Industry continues to bring in contractors for grants help

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The Industry department is continuing to pay private contractors for help with a range of its grants programs, issuing a further $1.1 million for consultants in a month. revealed earlier this year that the Department of Industry had paid consultants more than $15 million in the last 18 months for contracts related to the delivery of its grants programs, including the assessments of grant applications.

Three companies have shared in this work, with Synergy landing more than $10 million, ADECCO receiving $5.5 million in contracts and EY getting $200,000 for audit services.

Industry Department, Canberra

In a month since that report, Industry entered into three new contracts for the same “grants administrator service provider” work, worth more than $1 million.

Synergy will be paid $332,000 from 25 February to 19 October for work on Industry’s grants program.

ADECCO will be paid $719,000 over six months from early March for expertise for the same work, bringing its total pay-cheque over the last 18 months to nearly $6.5 million.

EY also landed another audit contract worth $74,000 over three weeks.

Department representatives previously said there has been “unprecedented” numbers of grants being issued this year, with the peak to likely have been in March. All of the new contracts, recently posted publicly on AusTender, cover the March period in full.

“We’ve got increasing numbers of grants which need to be worked through and advanced. The peak there is in March this year. And there’s a backlog in variations to existing contracts which is quite significant,” a Department spokesperson told a recent Senate Estimates hearing.

The “grants administrator service provider” contracts relate to grants program assessments and contract management across a range of Industry programs and those housed in other departments.

The work involves the contractors providing staff to the department on short notice to assist with grant program deadlines.

Synergy has now been awarded 25 of these contracts since November 2020 worth more than $10 million. It has previously been revealed that Synergy worked on assessing applications for the Boosting Female Founders scheme, which was recently embroiled in controversy over the eligibility of some successful grant recipients.

ADECCO has landed 12 contracts in the same time frame worth about $6 million, while EY has received three worth over $200,000 in total.

The public sector union has previously criticised the use of consultants in assessing government grant applications as being “outrageous and indefensible”.

“While the Department says this contract is to assist with a surge capability the fact is that the design, assessment and approval of grants schemes is bread and butter work for this Department. This is not work that should need to be sent outside to be done,” Community and Public Sector Union assistant national security Michael Tull told InnovationAus earlier this year.

Consulting giant PwC was also recently awarded a near-$2 million contract to assist with a range of grants program, with this work seeing the firm paid $105,000 in just a fortnight to provide six staff members to the Industry department.

This was slammed by Opposition Senator Anthony Chisholm.

“It’s outrageous we’re paying tens of thousands of dollars to a consultancy firm to get another pork barrel from this government ready,” Senator Chisholm said earlier this month.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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