Buybacks under microscope

By Country News

An Australian Auditor-General report into the buyback of water entitlements will be handed down before the end of the year.

The nature of a number of buybacks came under scrutiny late last month, with questions focused on about $80million spent on two purchases in 2017.

The Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud referred water purchases under governments of both sides dating back to 2008 to the auditor-general.

‘‘It is important to maintain public confidence in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,’’ he wrote in a letter to Auditor-General Grant Hehir on April 23.

‘‘A review that includes the tender and procurement processes undertaken by relevant departments, tender evaluation criteria and assessment and the value of the water entitlements against the plan’s water recovery targets, would help maintain this confidence.’’

The auditor-general’s report will explore whether the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources had appropriate program design, planning and guidance in place to support strategic water procurements, executed the program consistent with approved policy, planning and guidance and achieved value for money.

‘‘In short, the performance audit will look at the design of the current policy for water buybacks, and whether its implementation has been effective. At this stage, I do not anticipate that the performance audit will cover in detail the period from 2008,’’ the auditor-general wrote to Mr Littleproud on April 29.