The three companies selected by the NSW Government this week to build Stage 3 of WestConnex have a troubling recent history of alleged corruption, bribery and tax-dodging. But it seems their combined lack of ethics hasn't prevented Premier Gladys Berejiklian from handing over billions of dollars in taxpayers money to the consortium consisting of Lend Lease, Samsung C&T Corporation and Bouygues Construction (LSB).
The awarding of the $7.25 billion contract to the consortium is just the latest example of the NSW Government selling out the public to reward its dodgy mates in the private sector, say members of community advocacy group No WestConnex: Public Transport (NoW: PT).
Just this week, it was reported that local construction giant Lend Lease has failed to pay any tax in Australia in the three years up to 2016 despite recording an income of close to $25 billion over that same period. But, that's not the worst of it.
In February, Samsung's ailing chairman, Lee Kun-hee, was named as a suspect in a US$7.5 million tax evasion case that involved the use of bank accounts held in the name of employees. That scandal followed on from last October, where police in Korea raided Samsung C&T's headquarters over allegations that Mr Kun-hee had used company funds to renovate his own home.
Meanwhile, Bouygues Construction has been dealing with its own long-running corruption scandals across Europe and Africa over the past couple of decades. The company was at the centre of major bribery claims in France just a few years ago after it won the contract to build a new US$3.9billion military complex in Paris. Just as concerning, Bouygues was also involved in ongoing bribery and corrupt practices in South Africa for a period lasting at least 10 years.
NoW: PT spokesperson, Andrew Chuter, said:
“Many countries around the world ban companies found to be engaging in improper or illegal conduct from government contracts. It’s best practice and considered good governance. In Australia, it seems we reward bad behaviour with billions of dollars from the public purse instead."
“It looks like the three members of this consortium are as thick as thieves when it comes to taking advantage of communities across the world. There is documented evidence of corrupt activities across Europe, Asia and Africa going back decades."
“Awarding a multi-billion dollar contract to this consortium comes as no surprise. WestConnex has been unethical from day one with it’s traffic modelling supplied by a company needing an out-of-court settlement of $250 million to avoid litigation for supplying exaggerated traffic modelling on Brisbane toll roads.”
“The Government has also failed to mentioned this project’s most complicated and critical part. A three-storey high spaghetti junction to be buried deep underground at Rozelle. It was removed from the tendering process so as not to scare off potential investors with its sheer risk and complexity. This type of design has never been attempted anywhere in the world.”
Stage 3 of WestConnex involves the construction of two mainline tunnels between the New M4 at Haberfield and the New M5 at St Peters. Both tunnels will be approximately 7.5km in length and will accommodate up to four lanes of traffic in each direction. According to the NSW government’s figures, it is officially costed at $7.25 billion. The government claims the entire WestConnex project will cost $16.8 billion to construct but independent analysis suggests the project is likely to cost closer to $45 billion.
As well as an immediate halt to the government's planned privatisation auction of WestConnex, NoW: PT is calling for a full NSW parliamentary inquiry into the infrastructure project dubbed “Australia’s largest” but fast becoming the country’s biggest construction headache.
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