1 August 2023

Home Affairs under scrutiny for offshore detention contracts

| Chris Johnson
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Dennis Richardson will lead a review of the Department of Home Affairs. Photo: File.

Former DFAT and Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson will lead an inquiry into the Department of Home Affairs in light of bribery allegations linked to offshore detention contracts in 2018.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said a review of the integrity and governance arrangements for the management of regional processing contracts was necessary.

“In recent weeks a number of serious issues relating to the governance of contracting related to regional processing have been placed on the public record,” the Minister said.

“They merit detailed and thorough examination.

“The review will consider governance practices and these allegations in the wider context of serious issues that have emerged over many years.

“It will not canvas the policy of regional processing itself.”

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A 60 Minutes and Nine newspapers investigation has revealed that in 2018 Home Affairs granted offshore processing contracts for Nauru and Papua New Guinea to Radiance International, despite the company being linked to a bribery investigation.

The suggestion is that Australia’s offshore processing regime was used by the company to pay Nauru and PNG politicians millions of dollars in bribes.

Mozammil Gulamabbas Bhojani, who operated Radiance, was ultimately convicted of bribing politicians in Nauru.

Home Affairs told the Senate just last month that it had no power to cancel the Nauru accommodation contracts with Radiance.

But contracts show that the department had every power in the world to cancel the contracts at the time, without reason.

Home Affairs is now being accused of misleading Parliament.

Current Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was the home affairs minister at the time, and the Australian Federal Police said last week that it had verbally briefed Mr Dutton in 2018 about the Radiance investigation.

A month after the briefing, a new contract was awarded to Radiance.

But Mr Dutton says he has no recollection of any such briefing and has asked the AFP for more details.

He described it as “complete nonsense” to suggest he had any role in awarding the contracts.

“If departments make decisions around procurement or enter into agreements to purchase services from people who have been subject to investigation, that’s a matter for them,” Mr Dutton said.

“It certainly has been in my time as home affairs minister, you’re not involved in the procurement of these services, it’s entirely an issue for the department.”

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Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo’s role in the contracts being awarded is now under scrutiny, with Mr Dutton suggesting Ms O’Neil is at “loggerheads with the secretary of her department”.

The Greens have accused the government of trying to “cover up” and “whitewash” the issue, and have called for a Royal Commission into the offshore detention process.

In his review, Mr Richardson will consider:

  • Any integrity concerns about contracting arrangements regarding regional processing, whether public or otherwise;
  • The department’s governance arrangements, oversight processes and systems for managing offshore processing, current and historic, including in relation to the engagement of subcontractors by head contractors;
  • Any other related concerns regarding arrangements for regional processing administration; and
  • The handling of any matters in the public realm and detail any matters of concern not in the public realm.

The review will make recommendations to ensure the Department of Home Affairs’ processes and systems meet Australian standards for propriety and probity; and make referrals of matters to appropriate authorities for further investigation where necessary.

Mr Richardson will report his review’s findings and recommendations to Ms O’Neil and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher for subsequent consideration by the National Security Committee of Cabinet.

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Stephen Saunders11:44 am 02 Aug 23

Howard and Vanstone had immigration at a massive 150-200K, as we looked-over-there at boat people.

Albanese and O’Neil have pumped immigration to 350-400K, as we look-over-there at the “broken system”, crime and corruption, dodgy detention contracts.

By any measure – it’s much worse. How much longer can they blame it all on “Bad Peter Dutton”?

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