The Victorian Ombudsman has published a report into the previous government’s Our Water Our Future – The Next Stage of the Government’s Water Plan, a $2 billion foodbowl initiative aimed at promoting water savings and productivity gains through infrastructure modernisation.


The report is a response to concerns raised by current State Water Minister Peter Walsh about the conduct of the two statutory bodies responsible for delivery of water and implement the foodbowl initiative.


Specifically, Mr Walsh was concerned about the conduct of the Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project (NVIRP).


The ombudsman’s report is generally supportive of the actions taken by the statutory bodies.


“NVIRP has achieved its progressive water savings targets to date andmade satisfactory progress in modernising the irrigation infrastructure. However, some capital installations are behind, due to the recent floods,and some quality issues exist in relation to capital installations and designs,” the report reads.


However, the report identifies a series of funding anomalies, which the current Victorian Government has quickly described as damming revelations of preferential treatment.


“The former government approved and committed substantial funding to the project although it had not undertaken a Business Case and feasibility studies critical to assess and evaluate investment options,” the ombudsman’s report concluded.


The report continued to reveal a lack of due diligence being conducted by the State Government at the time.


“At interview, the then Treasurer, Mr Brumby, acknowledged that the former government had not undertaken the required studies prior to announcing the project given the state’s critical water situation,” the report found.


The report identifies the following key issues:


  • NVIRP has paid $77.2 million to a single company without a tender process (p139);
  • Original loss and savings estimates were based on unverified figures and as a result water loss estimates have been revised several times (p32);
  • Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) was not consulted about the $100 million contribution the Brumby Labor Government had planned it would make to the project (p50);
  • Senior NVIRP staff have a misunderstanding of what constitutes a conflict of interest and how it should be managed (p123);


The full report can be found here