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Dutton’s department given go-ahead for $250m office upgrade

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton addresses the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 18 April 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe Coalition is set to use its numbers on a powerful parliamentary committee to approve the Immigration Department’s controversial plan to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on an office upgrade.
Nanjing Night Net

Despite concerns about the value of the $256 million office fit-out – believed to be the most expensive in federal government history – the Public Works Committee is poised to approve it next week.

While the committee is yet to finalise its report on the “Headquarters Project”, it is understood the five government members will recommend the proposal – backed by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton – goes ahead. However the four Labor members of the committee will take what is a rare step for a public works project and submit a dissenting report spelling out their concerns, Fairfax Media understands.

Under the proposal, the number of buildings the department inhabits in the national capital would shrink from 12 to five, with the main office located in a new state-of-the-art building next to Canberra Airport.

The price tag for the 85,700 square metre multi-building fit-out suggests the renovations will cost close to $3000 per square metre – well above the $1200 to $1800 per square metre target for such projects.

The government has budgeted $22.6 million for the fit-out, and another $20.5 million will come from the department’s operating budget. The department says the remaining $212m will come from landlord “lease incentives”.

Immigration boss Mike Pezzullo says the consolidation – which has been linked to Mr Dutton’s desire to create a supercharged Department of Homeland Security – will ultimately deliver $200 million in savings to the taxpayer over 30 years.

But members of the committee – both Liberal and Labor – have publicly criticised the complexity of the proposal and the department’s handling of it.

In Parliament in February, Labor senator Alex Gallacher said he believed taxpayers would end up paying much more through hidden costs in the lease deal.

He also pointed to the department’s “unenviable record” of poor contract management and cost blowouts.

At a subsequent public hearing, Liberal committee chair Scott Buchholz said the committee was “deeply unimpressed” with the department, accusing it of poor preparation and failing to provide vital information about the mega-proposal. He even went so far as to liken Immigration bosses to “unco-operative witnesses”.

The Public Works Committee usually comes to consensus decisions, although it did split last year over an expensive Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade proposal to upgrade its diplomatic mission in Doha.

Senator Gallacher was furious last year when the Department of Finance told the committee a lease on its new state-of-the-art offices would cost $194 million but the true cost was later revealed to be $376 million.

The Immigration fit-out is due to begin in August this year and be completed by February 2021. The upgraded buildings would accommodate 6000 staff. There will also be security upgrades worth $12 million.

The fit-out will include “a unified watch floor, situation rooms, briefing rooms, incident rooms, operation planning rooms, associated intelligence support rooms, and surge rooms”. The new building would include an armoury, conference and training facilities, evidence rooms and map rooms. The department envisions an “innovative” and “modern” new office with “large efficient floor plates to support future flexibility” and an open environment that will “promote collaboration and positive cultural renewal”.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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