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Australian National Audit Office audit report

Australian Dept of Agriculture, Water and the Environment mismanaged water buyback scheme

The Australian government's handling of the water buyback scheme has been the subject of a scathing report by the Australian National Audit Office; it claims that it did not properly apply policies to secure taxpayers value for money.

In the report, the audit office examined water procurements completed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment between 2016 and 2019, including $190 million controversially spent on water buybacks in 2017.

In order to maintain a balance between the water needs of industry, agriculture and the environment, the federal government manages the Murray Darling Basin, including through water buybacks. The audit report found the department had failed to appropriately manage the scheme according to approved policies and procedures.

"The department did not consistently apply approved policy, planning and guidance to the assessment of all limited tender procurements," the report reads, adding that the department only negotiated the price it paid for water in one instance.

According to an article on¸ it makes four recommendations, namely to conduct a review of the entire program and to implement changes which would help manage conflicts of interest and ensure documentation was completed comprehensively and on time.

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