Contracts given to reef body before taxpayer millions
A BIG-business foundation won two Federal Government contracts last year before scoring $443 million in taxpayer funds for reef research.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) - which employs 207 public servants - awarded two contracts for "consultancy work'' to the private foundation with just six staff.
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, chaired by former Esso Australia boss Dr John Schubert, is run by a Who's Who of Australian business leaders.
The Turnbull Government gave the foundation a $443 million grant in this year's Budget but News Queensland can reveal GBRMPA also paid the foundation $69,300 for consulting work last year.
GBRMPA chairman Russell Reichelt is a member of the foundation's board, along with Boeing Australia boss Maureen Dougherty and GE Mining president Steven Sargent.
The contracts, worth $36,300 and $33,000, went to limited tender, with GBRMPA citing the need for "specialised or professional skills''.
A GBRMPA spokeswoman yesterday said the consultancies related to coral bleaching research and a report on the economic contribution of the reef.
But the foundation did not do the consultancy work itself, despite winning the contracts.
"The foundation sourced suitably qualified external consultants to perform the work,'' the GBRMPA spokeswoman said yesterday.
"The funding provided to the foundation enabled them to engage external consultants to undertake this research.
"By partnering with the foundation, (GBRMPA) saved costs by avoiding duplicating similar work with similar objectives and ensured the outputs met management needs.''
A reef foundation spokeswoman yesterday said it had paid Deloitte to produce the reef economic report, and an independent consultant to work on the coral bleaching project.
"The foundation did not receive any commission or a proportion of the contract amount,'' she said.
"At the core of the work we do is our ability to draw together the disparate groups who are working to restore the reef.''
The latest GBRMPA annual report shows that it received $200,000 from the foundation as a contribution towards coral bleaching surveys, and paid the foundation $69,300 for "services provided'' during 2016/17.
The secretary of the federal Environment Department yesterday asked the Commonwealth Auditor-General to fast-track a proposed audit of the $443 million budget grant.