Mike Pezzullo, the secretary of home affairs, has refuted claims that he oversaw “endemic underperformance” in the administration of a contract for monitoring the country’s borders.
On Friday, Mr. Pezzullo said he had to make a “devil’s choice” between losing the power to guard the nation’s borders and renewing existing contracts.
An audit conducted by the Australian National Audit Office and published in 2021 criticized a deal made between the government and the business Surveillance Australia to supply 10 planes for border enforcement.
Despite the fact that the auditor general found the department’s handling of the $2.6 billion contract to have been “not effective,” the contract has not been put out to market since it was first awarded in 2006.
Senator Linda Reynolds, a former minister of defense, and committee head Julian Hill grilled Mr. Pezzullo over the management of contracts worth billions of dollars in a contentious exchange.
According to Mr. Pezzullo, the market had been surveyed to determine whether any other businesses could offer the same capabilities.
While he acknowledged that the department accepted each of the four audit recommendations, he disagreed with the report’s conclusion that contract management had not been efficient.
There is only one way to characterize the contract management, according to Senator Reynolds, and that is as a “endemic underperformance.”
If he accepted responsibility in his role as secretary, she questioned Mr. Pezzullo.
Mr. Pezzullo disagreed with her characterization but said he was responsible for the department’s performance.
Although we don’t always agree with the ANAO’s conclusions, he continued, “We often agree because it’s just common sense that the best practice that they propose should be should be anyhow.”
When asked if the department’s culture was positive, Mr. Pezzullo said that it was “mixed” and expressed the hope that he could pay his employees more.
Mr. Pezzullo responded that the Community and Public Sector Union had organized petitions when asked about the subpar staff survey results and a petition that was distributed in 2019 calling for his resignation.
He said, “If I were in charge of the CPSU, I’d do the same.”
He further stated that negotiations with the personnel were ongoing at the time.