Committee calls for new independent infrastructure body

Victoria's ability to manage major infrastructure has been hampered by a lack of experts in the bureaucracy, a parliamentary committee has found.

State Parliament's Public Accounts and Estimates Committee has called for the establishment of a new independent authority – which would be know as the Victorian Infrastructure and Skills Authority – to help prevent future cost blowouts following a series of problematic projects, including the myki ticketing system, the desalination plant and the Melbourne Market's relocation.

The Committee's final report found that "teams on a number of Victorian infrastructure projects have not had the required competencies and skills".

It said the Victorian Government lacked experienced staff to properly cost major projects, with "salary restrictions" identified as problem retaining and attracting qualified staff.

It said a new body was needed because there was no agency ultimately responsible for assessing major projects, with a focus of public private partnerships also draining the bureaucracy of experts.

It follows a report by the Auditor-General detailing an abysmal performance by Major Projects Victoria, the State Government body responsible for delivering large public works. It found out of 24 projects it managed over the past 12 years, none cost less than expected. On average, they cost 18 per cent more than anticipated, and took 37 per cent longer than expected.

Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia spokesman Matt Nurse said contracting out large projects had become dangerous because of a lack of expertise. "How can you possibly know how much a road or rail tunnel is going to cost unless you've built one before," he said.

This story Committee calls for new independent infrastructure body first appeared on The Age.