26 September 2023

WestConnex audit hits a pothole

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A performance audit into whether Transport for NSW (TfNSW) and Infrastructure NSW (INSW) have effectively assessed and justified major scope changes to the WestConnex project since 2014 has found that certain changes to the project have reduced transparency and understated its full cost.

In her report, WestConnex: Changes since 2014, Auditor-General Margaret Crawford said decisions to fund WestConnex-related projects outside WestConnex’s $16.812 billion budget had understated the total cost of WestConnex achieving its objectives

“The rationale to exclude or remove each of these elements from the WestConnex project scope has not been transparent, nor supported by robust analysis and justification,” Ms Crawford said.

“Decisions to exclude or remove these elements from WestConnex without justification have seen $4.26 billion of projects funded outside the $16.8 billion budget,” she said.

The auditor said the decision to separate Sydney Gateway from WestConnex had reduced transparency over the cost of the road component of Sydney Gateway and $1.76 billion of the cost to complete Sydney Gateway was funded from outside the WestConnex budget.

“Network integration costs, currently estimated at $2.3 billion, are also funded outside the WestConnex budget,” the Auditor-General said.

“Many of these costs are directly attributable to WestConnex and ought to be included in the reported budget.”

She said the Parramatta Road Urban Amenity Improvement Program, costing $198 million, should also be included as part of the WestConnex reported budget.

Ms Crawford found WestConnex’s complex financing arrangements further reduced transparency on costs and the lack of a ‘whole‑of‑program’ assurance limited its transparency, impacting on confidence that it would meet intended objectives within its budget.

The Auditor-General made five recommendations in total, three to TfNSW to review the impact of scope changes on project objectives; ensure estimated costs and benefits of works reasonably required to meet consent conditions are included in business cases; and establish centralised and project specific record keeping for major infrastructure projects.

She recommended INSW provide a transparent whole-of-program assurance on total costs and benefits when complex projects were split into sub-projects and that the Government consider enhancing public transparency of existing infrastructure assurance processes.

The Auditor-General’s 47-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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