A parliamentary inquiry into Sydney’s eastern suburbs light rail has called for a review of the effectiveness of public-private partnerships given the litany of problems with the delayed project.
The inquiry’s final report, released on Friday, made just one finding – that “the delay of the project has contributed to the distress of residents and businesses”.
But the report made 20 recommendations including that the state’s auditor-general undertake a review of the effectiveness of PPP contracts “for significant state infrastructure projects”.
The public accountability committee also recommended a full investigation into the mishandling of human remains by a worker who was seen throwing bones onto the pavement in Surry Hills in October 2018
The report also suggested Transport for NSW conduct an urgent review of all claims of property damage caused by the delayed project.
The light rail was initially expected to cost $1.6 billion but the budget has since blown out to at least $2.1 billion with Spanish contractor Acciona suggesting it could go up further.
It was meant to be finished in 2019 but the company building it now expects it to be completed by May 2020.
The committee, chaired by Christian Democrat Reverend Fred Nile, also recommended the government review the exemptions provided to projects deemed “critical state significant infrastructure”.
The “state significant” tag was likened to a “Trojan horse” by resident Andrew Jordan when he gave evidence to the committee in October 2018.
“This critical infrastructure tag was a Trojan horse to let the project get away with blue murder and not be held accountable for what it is and to work and not pay compensation to small businesses and residents,” Mr Jordan said at the time.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance described the light rail project as “without doubt one of the most intensive, intrusive builds” in the state’s history.
But he argued the government was already implementing many of the recommendations contained in Friday’s report.
Mr Constance said the coalition would consider the request for an auditor-general review of the PPP process but noted it was a business model he believed in.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay said while the private sector was integral to building state infrastructure the government had taken the PPP process too far by outsourcing critical aspects of projects.
“Government can’t build projects but government should operate a project and government should be responsible for the way a contract performs,” Ms McKay told AAP.
“There are major issues with the way the government has determined these public-private partnerships.”