Investigation into lawfulness of multimillion-dollar campsite

The ACT Auditor-General has been asked to investigate the lawfulness of financial appropriations made by the ACT Government for the construction and operation of the Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm.

The Financial Management Act 1996 prohibits the ACT Government from using public money otherwise than in accordance with an appropriation.

In 2007, the ACT Government formally committed $10.8 million to construct a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans as part of the Appropriation Bill 2007-2008 No. 2.

In his presentation speech, then Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said:

Today, I announce that the government will create a purpose-built residential facility for alcohol and drug rehabilitation for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

While the NBHF cost $11.8 million to construct it has never operated as a clinical residential facility for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, as it was always intended to do.

The ACT Government has now spent almost $20 million on the facility to date, but the Indigenous community still doesn’t have access to a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. Leaders of the Indigenous community have described the facility as a campsite.

The Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs James Milligan said the Canberra community deserves to know whether their money has been spent lawfully.

“For more than a decade, the community has been paying millions of dollars for a project that has never been delivered,” Mr Milligan said.

“I have written to the Auditor-General requesting an investigation into whether the government has lawfully spent public money on this project.

“Canberra families are being taxed more than ever to pay the interest on the Labor Government’s record $3 billion debt bomb. They have a right to know whether the government has spent their money has been used in accordance with law.

“With taxes are at record highs and services at record lows, the community doesn’t trust that they are getting value for money.

“Canberrans deserve a better way,” Mr Milligan said.