Auditor-General gives regional fibre the thumbs up

The Auditor-General has found no faults in the regional broadband roll-out, finding only one recommendation to give the government to turn good into great.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor on

The Australian National Audit Office has completed its performance audit of the Regional Backbone Blackspots Program (RBBP), giving it a clean bill of health and offering just one recommendation.

The RBBP is part of the Federal Government's plan to fast-track the expected long task of rolling out fibre to regional Australia, passing through about 100 regional towns and connecting 400,000 people through 6000km of fibre. Although the project has suffered some delays, the Auditor-General's report (PDF) noted that these were due to extreme weather events, including flooding in 2011-12.

The report found that the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy's (DBCDE) program implementation plan was sound, giving consideration to the priority of particular locations, involving stakeholders, regularly reporting on the progress of the program and analysing the program's performance against its objectives.

DBCDE's approach to procurement was also examined and given the thumbs up by the Auditor-General. The report found that the process was conducted in a open and transparent measure, and was complied under the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines, with regards to efficiency, transparency and ethical practice.

The Auditor-General noted that DBCDE's actions in ensuring that the contractor upheld its end of the agreement were limited, and even though the department brought on a technical advisor, which it used extensively throughout the construction phase of the program, no independent testing was conducted during the operations phase of the program in 2011. The report has no recommendations for this oversight, however, since the department has already proposed compliance activities that will address this.

Instead, the Auditor-General's sole recommendation was for the DBCDE to develop an overarching implementation plan and establish what the performance data requirements are, in order to better compare the program to its objectives. DBCDE agreed with the recommendation, noting that the program did have a set of linked project plans and an extensive schedule of reports, but that its transparency and accountability could be improved further.

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