Please explain: Auditor-General to investigate ‘confidential’ Wellcamp deal

Queensland’s auditor-general is seeking more information about the confidential costs and tender process for the state’s controversial Wellcamp Covid-19 quarantine facility.

Mar 10, 2022, updated Mar 10, 2022
Toowoomba businessman John Wagner has declined to share details of his "commercial in confidence" agreement to build the Wellcamp quarantine facility. (Photo: ABC)

Toowoomba businessman John Wagner has declined to share details of his "commercial in confidence" agreement to build the Wellcamp quarantine facility. (Photo: ABC)

The state struck a deal with the Wagner Corporation to build the 1000-bed camp near Toowoomba in 2021.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk refused to reveal the price tag for months, saying it was “commercial-in-confidence”, before last month admitting construction had cost $48.8 million.

However, the price the state is paying to lease the facility back from the Wagners and the tender process for the project remain opaque.

Auditor-General Brendan Worrall says he will probe the project after being asked to by Liberal National Party finance spokesman Jarrod Bleijie.

“I have decided to obtain more information about this project from the relevant government departments,” Worrall wrote in a letter to the opposition MP.

“This will include identifying the various costs, understanding the procurement process, and reviewing leases and other agreements including the use of confidentiality provisions.

“We will consider further actions once we have obtained and assessed this information.”

Worrall said his agency will also probe whether the government’s accounting books were accurate in relation to the Wellcamp project.

Bleijie said it was important for the auditor-general to investigate the use of taxpayers’ money for the facility.

“The premier and her ministers must cooperate fully with these inquiries,” he said in a statement.

If the state government is not being fully upfront and continues to hide how it has spent taxpayers’ money then I encourage the Auditor-General to blow the whistle.”

“Queenslanders deserve to know how their money is being spent at Wellcamp.”

Last month, Treasurer Cameron Dick defended keeping the lease confidential, saying the arrangement was no different to the former LNP government’s confidential lease of its office headquarters.

“That’s a lease deal that they entered into that is commercial-in-confidence, so it’s no different to that,” Dick told reporters on Thursday.

The government revealed the building cost of Wellcamp after Palaszczuk said she would if the Commonwealth did so for another quarantine facility at Pinkenba.

The 800-bed facility near Brisbane Airport is being built jointly by the state and federal governments.

The Commonwealth revealed its $350-$400 million price tag, prompting the state to unveil the build cost of Wellcamp.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said last month the Wellcamp tender process had been run by the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning.

She referred journalists to Deputy Premier Steven Miles, and refused to say whether Queensland Health has been involved.

The minister insisted the government complied with “a whole range of procurement processes” and warned journalists against making “accusations”.

“Certainly put those questions and get that information before we go down that rabbit hole,” Ms D’Ath said.

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