NBN panel review cost $700K

Taxpayers to foot the bill

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy

Taxpayers will be forced to foot a $702,000 bill to cover the tender costs of the government's scrapped first National Broadband Network (NBN) plans.

The seven-member expert panel racked up $613,556 in fees and $89,946 in travel expenses during the 10 month tender evaluation process which included 12 face-to-face meetings, four site visits and 24 teleconferences.

Responses from Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy to coalition questions, taken on notice, showed five members were paid $375 an hour while total expenses tipped $3.36 million.

The revelations follow a preliminary investigation conducted by Auditor General Ian McPhee into why the six NBN proposals were deemed unsatisfactory by panel.

However some telcos have written-off the costs spent on the first NBN tender process, including former NSW treasurer and head of the Terria telco consortium, Michael Egan.

He said the investigation is a “bit of government noise”, while another bidding telco said money was invested in proposals with the expectation that bids may be unsuccessful.

Shadow minister Nick Minchin said the first tender process cost some $20 million. “The high costs associated with the expert panel’s operation and the fact taxpayers have funded it, further underlines why [the panel] report should be released,” Minchin said in a written statement.”The Australian public has every right to see what its money has paid for and whether the government in fact followed the panel’s advice as it claims.”

The members on the expert panel included John Wylie, Lazard Carnegie Wylie CEO; Tony Mitchell, Allphones Chairman; Laureate Professor Rod Tucker, University of Melbourne; Professor Emeritus of Communications, Reg Coutts, University of Adelaide; Tony Shaw, former Australian Communications Authority Chairman and Dr Ken Henry, Treasury Secretary.

Calls to the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy were not returned by the time of publication.

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