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Senate Committee demands more blood from #asa

Senate Committee demands more blood from #asa

The late night effort of the Committee on Tuesday [18th August 2015], foreshadowed that it was not happy with the Harefield responses. In fact to the point of indicating that the #asa Board was likely to be called before the Committee.

These responses directed blame and the authority for these decisions onto the #asa Board. The #asa board is led by Angus Houston.

The senators [Heffernan, Sterle, Bullock and Edwards] expressed their displeasure at Harefield during their questioning.

The Australian’s Ean Higgins article from this morning is below:


Airservices chairman Angus Houston to face Senate grilling

Houston to face Senate grilling

Airservices Australia chairman Angus Houston. Picture: Alf Sorbello Source: News Corp Australia

A Senate committee will call Airservices Australia chairman Angus Houston and other board members before it to explain how much they knew about allegedly “dodgy” and “incestuous” dealings surrounding contracts awarded for a $1.5 billion state-of-the-art national air traffic control system.

The Australian can also reveal the rural and regional affairs and transport legislation committee will write to the National Audit Office seeking an urgent “serious audit” of Airservices.

On Tuesday, the committee examined revelations in The Australian about executive bonuses of up to $100,000 that were paid in a financial year that saw profits halved and return on equity targets unmet.

Labor and Coalition senators, along with independent Nick Xenophon, grilled acting Air­services chief executive Jason Harfield. Liberal senator Sean Edwards asked how a government-owned monopoly with no competitors could justify paying bonuses.

The hearing canvassed evidence of a complex web of persona­l and corporate connec­tions among Airservices executives, consultants and contractors, variously described­ by senators as “incestuous” and “dodgy”.

It emerged Airservices has paid a consulting group, the Inter­national Centre for Complex Project Management, several million dollars to advise it on the program to integrate the civilian and military air traffic control systems by 2021, called OneSKY.

An ICCPM consultant, former RAAF officer Harry Bradford, has already been paid $1 million to act as Airservices’ lead negotiator in talks with the successful prime contractor, international aerospace group Thales.

Thales Australia’s managing director, Chris Jenkins, is also chairman of ICCPM, prompting senators to ask why there was not a conflict of interest with Mr Bradford paid by Airservices to negotiate on its behalf a deal with the head of his own consultancy group.

In addition, a former ICCPM officer now employed by Airserv­ices, Steve Hein, helped process a payment of contract services provided by ICCPM, whose managing director is his wife, Deborah Hein. Mr Harfield told the hearing he could see no conflict of interest, and said “we have very stringent probity and procedures”.

Labor senator Joe Bullock told Mr Harfield “you occupy a parallel universe”. Mr Harfield eventually admitted he could not guarantee that the Airservices board knew of the interconnections when it signed off on giving the prime contract to Thales. The deputy chairman of the committee, Labor senator Glenn Sterle, said the whole scenario left him “gobsmacked”.

Senator Xenophon said: “It’s imperative that the chair of Airservices Australia, Sir Angus Houston, be called, together with any board members that he wishes to bring with him. The buck stops with the board, and there were many unanswered questions.”

The Australian has been told the committee intends to seek an investigation by the Auditor-General. The committee chairman, Liberal senator Bill Heffernan, said “it may be appropriate for the committee to not only call the board, but also have consideration with regard to the Australian ­National Audit Office”, but he declin­ed to comment further.

Airservices spokesman Rob Walker did not answer questions put to the organisation.

Comment by Alexander 12 hours ago This is just another example of a failed experiment, that is the creation of ‘independent government business units’ coupled with ‘user pays’. Air Services Australia and its twin Civil Aviation Safety Authority both demonstrate that being removed from direct Ministerial control is disastrous for the industries they are supposed to service and actually cost the taxpayer more even with their excessive fees. The nonsense is of course that without competition any relationship to ‘business’ is just fanciful.

 

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