Federal departments and agencies are on the move, with a number of new leases signed for premises being either vacated by current tenants, or for offices yet to be built.
Beyond the cost of leases, there is also a huge price tag for relocating a whole department.
For some agencies, the moves are two to three years away, but for others, it’s more imminent.
But all of them are deathly silent about how much these moves are costing the taxpayer. It’s a good thing there are such things as annual reports.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry workshopped its response to Region’s media inquiry for more than 24 hours before a departmental spokesperson simply said: “Our new Canberra office is on track for completion in late October. Staff will begin to move into the new building from November 2022. The new lease agreement will achieve savings for the Commonwealth over the life of the lease.”
Two years ago, it was reported that the Ag department planned to move from its Marcus Clarke Street headquarters (and other locations) to the 12-storey Civic Quarter 2 building being constructed.
Beyond the cost of the lease, the department planned a $78 million fitout. That was a lot of taxpayer dollars being discussed, and that’s before the actual moving costs.
The debacle of Barnaby Joyce’s insistence that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority move from Canberra to Armidale just a few years back came with a price tag of $26 million – and not everything went to plan there.
More currently, it has been revealed that the ABC will spend $50 million to move 75 staff from its Ultimo headquarters in Sydney 25 km down the M4 to Parramatta.
In Canberra, the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Education, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, the Australian Electoral Commission, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry are among those with firm plans to relocate headquarters but stay within the ACT.
Region’s calculations, based on industry data and conversations within the sector, conservatively put the cost to the taxpayer of these moves alone in the vicinity of half a billion dollars.
That’s just for relocating to and outfitting of new premises.
The figure doesn’t include the cost of the actual lease contracts, which may well (as our friends at the Ag Dept suggest) end up cost-effective in the very long term.
No, this hefty price tag is purely for moving bodies and furniture, procurement of new furniture and internal infrastructure, ICT preparedness, and consultants to advise on every step of the transition.
A simple name change or merging of departments and agencies, as happens with every machinery of government announcement, comes with its own cost.
A MoG can be expensive even without a relocation, just for the costs of rebranding and new imagery.
That price tag has lowered a little in recent times with less use of and reliance on printing materials. It’s largely electronic these days.
So you would think that rebranding shouldn’t be an expensive exercise. The people at the BoM recently found out otherwise.