The extent of Dan Andrews’ blundering during the pandemic has been laid bare in a damning report that found an extraordinary squandering of taxpayer money.
While the man dubbed ‘Chairman Dan’ locked down Melbourne, his cronies wasted just under $200 million on dodgy face masks while spending $27 a pop on hand sanitiser.
Among a litany of funding mistakes found in a report by the Victorian Auditor-General, tabled in State Parliament on Wednesday, was Mr Andrews’ health and jobs departments ‘cannot be certain that material fraud or corruption did not occur’.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been described as a ‘blunderball’ by insiders for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic
Despite brutal lockdowns, Victoria was unable to contain the spread of Delta
The body of an elderly resident is taken away from the Epping Gardens aged care facility outside of Melbourne last year after Covid-19 broke loose from hotel quarantine
Both departments had already been condemned by an independent watchdog for their handling of Victoria’s botched hotel quarantine scheme, which saw more than 800 elderly Victorians die last year and no-one take responsibility.
The latest audit examined how departments managed their spending in response to Covid-19, with a view to reflect on how they might improve their preparedness for future crises.
Auditor-General Andrew Greaves found the Andrews’ government spent $4.4 billion up to June last year responding to the pandemic.
By then, just 20 people had died from the virus.
Those numbers would skyrocket over the coming months, with Victoria on Thursday recording 25 deaths in the outbreak’s deadliest day, with 1923 new cases also emerging.
Most departments had gaps in how they used their critical incident process for COVID-19 procurement, such as poor documentation and inadequate consideration of conflicts of interest.
Victoria’s Health Department, which at the time of the outbreak was headed by Minister Jenny Mikakos, wasted a whopping $172 million on protective gear that was not fit for purpose, the audit found.
Ms Mikakos would resign in September last year after Mr Andrews put the blame on her for his disastrous hotel quarantine efforts.
‘Not all departments effectively managed their spending leading to waste in some instances.’ Mr Greaves concluded.
Despite word Covid-19 was likely to hit our shores months in advance, Mr Andrews was still caught on the hop, with his bean counters found to have underestimated the cost of the pandemic response to taxpayers by a sensational $800 million.
When Covid hit, a panicked Justice Department was paying up to $27 a bottle for hand sanitiser while other departments were buying it for a little over $3.
Usual processes designed to keep the public’s servants on the straight and narrow were tossed out the window.
In a damning reflection of a taxpayer’s fears coming to fruition, Mr Andrews’ Jobs Department – still headed by Minister Martin Pakula today – and the Health Department were found to have been more than a little loose with available funds.
The audit found a senior executive staff member was hired by the Health Department for a year on a salary of $594,595 after it used a single quote rather than a traditional recruitment process.
Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton’s health department came under fire for the way it spent taxpayer dollars early in the outbreak
Daniel Andrews’ government wasted millions on protective gear that wasn’t fit for purpose
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and former Health Minister Jenny Mikakos in September last year. She would resign shortly after
Jobs Minister Martin Pakula remains at the helm of several portfolios for Premier Daniel Andrews
A resident of Epping Gardens Aged Care Facility is taken away in a ambulance last year after Covid-19 infiltrated aged care homes
DAN ANDREWS’ COVID-19 ‘ONE QUOTE’ CASH BONANZA
Engaging a professional services firm to provide executive team coaching to the Jobs Department
Commissioning a professional services firm to review the Job’s Department’s corporate structure
Creating a website to advertise government initiatives on behalf of the Jobs Department
Engaging creative services firms to develop entertainment to promote community wellbeing for the Department of Premier and Cabinet
Buying online platforms to host live performance events online
Mr Andrews’ cronies later tried to justify the salary despite it exceeding the job description by more than $250,000 and the relevant pay band by $230,000.
The Jobs Department procured a consulting firm to provide ‘executive coaching and wellbeing support’ to staff affected by its Covid-19 response at a total cost of up to $100,000.
‘(It) did not approach any other providers for quotes and did not finalise a contract with the firm until several months after it started providing services,’ the audit stated.
In August last year, it engaged a professional services firm to supply a call centre for $4.5 million in similar fashion.
The Premier’s own department was among those criticised for using a single quote for some purchases that, while related to Covid-19, ‘were not so time sensitive to justify avoiding a standard, competitive process’, the audit found.
Mr Greaves concluded ‘most departments’ had gaps in how they used their critical incident process for Covid-19 procurement, such as ‘poor documentation and inadequate consideration of conflicts of interest’.
‘Without strong processes, departments cannot be certain that material fraud or corruption did not occur,’ he stated.
The audit also found troubling issues with the way grants had been handed out in the early months of the pandemic.
Covid-19 escaped hotel quarantine after private security staff were used instead of police or soldiers. An inquiry was held to find out who in Premier Daniel Andrews’ Government made that decision. It didn’t get an answer
Premier Daniel Andrews last year when he believed he locking down Victorians was the only way to save lives. More have died under his watch than in any other state in Australia
Mr Andrews (centre) was once close with Adem Somyurek, who has been accused of branch stacking while a minister with Labor
For the first two rounds of the Business Support Fund, the Jobs Department could not even check applicants’ eligibility.
Millions of dollars in grants are believed to have gone to Victorians who were not eligible, including 105 grants to businesses that stated they had zero employees on their application form.
In October last year, the Jobs Department identified that due to a ‘system error’, it made $13.85 million in overpayments to more than 1000 ineligible businesses.
Only four of the eight audited departments were found to have managed their Covid-19 grants programs effectively.
While both Mr Andrews’ health minister at the time and Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles have both since resigned, Jobs minister Martin Pakula remains firmly entrenched.
One source with links to the Andrews Government told Daily Mail Australia the premier would prefer the report be swept under the carpet ‘much like the hotel quarantine findings’.
‘He struck like Blunderball,’ he said.
It’s release comes hot on the heels on the commencement of an Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission inquiry into alleged ‘branch stacking’ within Mr Andrews’ government.
That inquiry has already seen one of his ministers’ resign and could see more follow when it fires up again next week.
The audit, which cost a little over $1.3million in itself to conduct, made more than a dozen recommendations to the Andrews Government, which has been contacted by Daily Mail Australia for comment.