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$160m of overspends during past nine years set to go before MPs

MPs will today be asked to approve more than $160 million in government overspends over the last decade.

And Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards claimed last night there was no good reason why the cost overruns hadn't been brought to the House of Assembly before.

“Nothing about this is normal,” the Opposition MP said. “They are coming up because I have made a fuss about it.

“The Auditor General has highlighted these items in the Government's latest financial statements: that they are unauthorised expenditures going back to 2002.

“These have been overlooked for nine years. They are being brought forward now. I don't hold out much hope of getting a real explanation [as to why]. There is no explanation.”

Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox, who tabled the supplementary estimates in the House on Friday, told

The Royal Gazette they should have been brought forward before but contained no real surprises.

“Certainly the supplementaries should have come sooner than this and I cannot defend what has clearly been a lapse, though I can indicate that the relevant officers have sought to get the necessary information so that these issues can be brought to the House sooner rather than later,” she said. “They were not successful.”

The supplementary estimates relate to unbudgeted amounts spent by Government over the course of eight financial years, beginning with 200⅔.

The total figure given is more than $235 million but, in some of the financial years, Government spent less than budgeted so the overruns didn't take it over its original overall estimate.

In other cases, there were “technical supplementaries” when the amounts went over a particular Ministry's budget but could be met within the overall Government Budget.

The largest single overrun listed was in 2004/5, when the Ministry of Finance spent $53 million more than estimated, the majority of it topping up the pension fund for public servants.

Ms Cox explained: “This was an exceptional expenditure item, arising from the Government's decision to provide relief to the Public Service Superannuation Fund by way of [a] write-off of $49.9 million.”

She said the amount was a “special contribution” to the fund.

The most recent overrun tabled was $13.2 million for the financial year 2009/10.

Ms Cox said the majority of items had already been disclosed and others were unforseen, such as a $6.6 million pay award to police in 2009/10.

The Premier added that the supplementary estimates were “clearly not ideal and this is [the] exception rather than the rule and should not be repeated”.

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Published March 28, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated March 28, 2011 at 10:24 am)

$160m of overspends during past nine years set to go before MPs

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