Auditor-General Ian McPhee has released his report into Kevin Rudd’s $16.2billion Building the Education Revolution (BER) scheme, with the audit lacking any clear conclusions on the program.
The report did however highlight two areas of concern, the scheme was hampered by decisions taken by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations in how school principals could spend the money, additionally late starts to actual construction have hampered evaluation of the success of the program.
Auditor-General Ian McPhee was critical of the empowerment of school principals “(This) increased the administrative effort necessary to deliver the program,” he said.
”Additionally, some of the administrative arrangements put in place by the department were unduly complicated and time-consuming for education authorities. It was open to the department to have adopted a more streamlined approach to program delivery in consultation with education authorities while still meeting the policy objectives of the program.” the report read.
Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard defended the choices behind the program, particularly giving power to principals rather than coordinating purchases at a state level.
“The Auditor-General is critical of that decision of government but I do stand by that decision and I believe it was important to empower school principals,” she said.
“I believe it was appropriate for the national government to keep control.” she said.
Milestones have been shifted for the program with 34 percent of round one projects and 9.6 percent of round two projects completed. This correlates with only 18.6 percent of projects starting on time.
“DEEWR advised the ANAO that of the 10 700 approved projects, 1995 (18.6 percent) had met the construction commencement expectations for each funding round” the report read.
Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the audit highlighted the problems with government bureaucracy.
“He has found real issues with the way the guidelines have been administered by the Department of Education,” he said.
“Essentially he has found there’s been an over-bureaucratic approach to this program.”
Opposition leader Tony Abbott believes the Building the Education Revolution program was never going to be able to achieve its goals.
“What it does highlight is the need for a full judicial inquiry,” he said.