Damning report highlights lack of road funding accountability

A damning report by the Albanese Government’s hand-picked reviewer of federal-state road funding arrangements says urgent reform is needed to improve data reporting, manage project performance, and ensure funding integrity.

Conducted by Jane Halton AO PSM, the review of the 2018-2023 National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects says government accountability and transparency must improve. This underscores the need for the Commonwealth to fulfill its promise to “end the rorts” in road funding.

The report says: “There has been no systematic data gathering or outcomes analysis over the course of the current NPA to date. There have not been outcome-based performance reports provided to ministers or senior officials.”

Referring specifically to performance and outcomes measurement, the report says: “While the reporting is incomplete, progress toward the targets appears low. This review is unable to draw any meaningful inference except that the current approach to data reporting is not working.”

“It is clear there is now an opportunity to reset existing arrangements in order to improve accountability, transparency, efficiency and, especially, outcomes”.

Australia’s next 5-year NPA is under negotiation and due for implementation in July 2024, and Australia’s peak motoring body implores the state and federal transport ministers meeting in Hobart this week to make it more effective than its predecessor.

AAA polling shows 61 per cent of Australians believe politicians prioritise spending public funds on road projects that benefit their re-election chances, over projects that deliver community benefit.

The polling, conducted between 20 and 23 November, found this figure was 66% in the federal electorate of Cooper (Vic), and 65% in both the federal seats of Eden-Monaro (NSW) and Moreton (QLD).

The polling found only 20% of voters agreed that the Albanese Government has fulfilled its election commitment to “end the rorts” in road funding, with this figure just 14% in the seat of Lyons (TAS), 16% in Hasluck (WA) and 17% in Hunter (NSW).

AAA Managing Director Michael Bradley said: “Government secrecy means Australians have no way of understanding whether politicians are spending billions of dollars a year on roads to win votes or save lives.

“At a time when our national road toll is climbing, voters and motorists deserve greater integrity and transparency from those the elect to represent them.

“The Commonwealth gives states and territories $10 billion a year in road funding, with no data reporting requirements to show how it is spent.

“Given this lack of accountability, it is not surprising to see both voter cynicism and the road toll tracking higher”.

The AAA is calling on Minister Catherine King to use the next NPA to compel states to release existing data about the causes of car crashes, the safety of roads, and trends in police traffic enforcement as a condition of receiving federal road grants.

The data could be used by experts to create more effective road safety policies and also allow Australians to judge road funding decisions against in the context of road safety data.

The current five-year NPA on Land Transport Infrastructure, including $35 billion spent on roads and a further $10.2 billion on railways, will expire on June 30 next year.

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