Canstruct International, the Brisbane-based company and Liberal Party donor that runs Australia’s offshore processing regime in Nauru, has won another undisputed contract extension – $ 180 million over six months – bringing its total revenue from island contracts over the years. past five years to more than $ 1.5 billion.
There are 108 people detained in Nauru under Australia’s offshore processing regime. This costs Australian taxpayers more than $ 8,800 per day for each person detained on the island, or $ 3.2 million per year.
Although no new arrivals of asylum seekers have been sent to Nauru since 2014, the regime will cost more than $ 400 million there this year.
The original contract for ‘supply of garrison and social services in Nauru’ awarded to Canstruct was worth only $ 8 million in October 2017, but it was changed almost immediately – increased by 4,500% to 385 million dollars just one month after signing.
Since then, according to government figures, seven more changes have pushed the cost to taxpayers up to $ 1,598,230,689, a total increase of over 19,300%.
The latest – the eighth – amendment to the contract was released this month: for an additional $ 179,291,900, to continue operating on the island until the end of 2021.
The contract was awarded on a limited tender basis, with “no value-for-money submissions or submissions received,” show government tender documents.
Canstruct had helped build the “regional treatment center” in Nauru and had taken over the management of the center in Broadspectrum, which had suffered years of negative publicity over its management of the centers.
Canstruct, a Brisbane-based private company and Liberal Party donor, won the contract through limited bidding, meaning there was no open and competitive process to secure the initial contract. The Auditor General criticized the process, saying “it is not clear why the department could not have found a replacement supplier using a more competitive method of procurement.”
Anthony Whealy, a former New South Wales Supreme Court justice and chairman of the Center for Public Integrity, said the initial lack of an open tender was “questionable to say the least”.
But his main concern was the repeated contract adjustments, which awarded Canstruct increasing sums without further tendering.
“When the contract price multiplies over the years to reach billions of dollars without a proper tendering process, the result is deeply disturbing,” he said.
“Add to that the fact that the recipient is a political donor, then the result is outright scandal.”
Canstruct told the Guardian he was unable to comment on government contracting issues, but said any suggestion that ties to political parties had influenced contract issues was “absurd”. The Home Office said procurement rules were being followed and the auditor general found the management of the procurement process “largely appropriate.”
The Nauru treatment center has been beset by controversy, including violence against asylum seekers and refugees, systemic sexual abuse of children, inadequate medical and psychiatric care and a wave of suicides.
The Nauru Files, a cache of leaked internal working papers written by staff, detailed sexual violence against children as young as six, assault and systemic neglect. Separate statements from senior United Nations officials said the Nauru camp was “cruel and inhumane” and violated the convention against torture. Medicin Sans Frontiers said mental health problems in Nauru were “among the most serious MSF has ever seen”.
There are currently 108 people detained by Australia on the island: 78 have been officially recognized as refugees, 14 have had their requests for protection rejected, while 16 remain – after more than seven years – still awaiting ” a “refugee status determination” decision.
Nauru is part of the Australian offshore processing regime. In total, reports estimate that dealing with the offshoring cost Australian taxpayers $ 18.6 billion between 2013 and 2020.
Paladin – an island hut-based company with no experience of major contracts – has received more than $ 500 million in public funds to provide garrison services to the Australian processing center on Manus Island in PNG without the contract is not subject to a call for tenders. In a scathing report, the Auditor General concluded that the taxpayer was not getting his money’s worth.
The Manus center has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court of PNG and the Australian government has agreed to pay out $ 70 million in compensation to those detained.
Rory Murphy, chief executive of Canstruct, told The Guardian that the company’s “small payments” to political parties “are not donations, but were intended for dinners that provide businesses with the opportunity to hear high-ranking deputies on politics ”.
These are regular functions, Murphy said, “used for fundraising by all political parties and attended by many businessmen in the corporate sector.”
“We follow all Commonwealth procurement guidelines and the suggestion that being in a function has any bearing on a contract with a ministry is absurd. We note that we have done the same with the Australian Labor Party.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said the Australian government “remains committed to regional treatment as a key pillar of Operation Sovereign Borders”.
“Australia is working with Nauru to establish sustainable regional processing capacity in Nauru. Continuity of services until sustainable capacity is established is essential.
The spokesperson said the department was following Commonwealth rules when purchasing garrison and social services in Nauru. “The government played no role in the procurement process or in awarding contracts.”