The Opposition has called on the Gunner Government to reveal details of how an external consultancy report that started as a COVID-19 review turned into a massive restructure of the NT’s health services and how much it is costing taxpayers.
The initial contract, which was awarded to Ernst and Young without going through a public tender process, was valued at $582,000 and was solely to review the government’s pandemic response.
But health insiders say that figure is already into the millions of dollars range after it diverged from a COVID-19 review into the major restructure of health services that will involve consolidating Central Australia Health Service, Top End Health Service and NT Health.
CLP Health spokesman Bill Yan called on the Gunner Government to come clean about the report and release it to the public.
“Territory taxpayers have a right to know what their money is being spent on,” he said.
“Half a million dollars for a consultancy, commissioned for the only thing Labor wants to talk about – COVID – which was not put out to public tender, is a major expense for a cash-strapped government.
“The department has already admitted there are a number of variations since the initial COVID consultancy morphed into a departmental restructure, but hasn’t provided updated costings.
“Who knows what the final price tag will be?”
It was previously revealed the restructure is being overseen by former senior NT public servant Michael Tennant, who went to work as an “associate partner” for Ernst and Young after leaving his executive role with the Department of Business in 2019.
The CLP Opposition sought information over how the contract was awarded and why it changed from a COVID-19 review into a detailed restructure plan through written questions to Health Minister Natasha Fyles.
Ms Fyles said that the document would not be released publicly as it was now considered “cabinet in confidence”.
She added that it did not have to be put out to public tender because of extraordinary measures the government enacted during the pandemic that permitted Chief Minister Michael Gunner as then-business minister to use an “emergency procurement exemption” not to go to public tender.
“This was utilised to urgently review the public health response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic and to identify potential risks and opportunities,” she said.
“It was not required to be released publicly.
“The design and implementation of one integrated health system was an outcome of the initial consultancy.”