Victoria's hotel quarantine program spent over a million on consultants

18 October 2020 3 min. read

The Victoria hotel quarantine program has come under intense scrutiny, after failing to meet its objective of preventing the spread of Covid-19 from visitors to the resident population of Australia. One of the latest bones of contention is that the regional government spent over $1 million on consultants while the process spiralled out of control.

The South Eastern Australian state of Victoria encompasses mountains, national parks, wineries and surfing beaches. The state's capital Melbourne has a population of just under 5 million people.

As Covid-19 continued to spread in 2020, the state’s government hastily assembled a hotel quarantine program to stop the spread of the virus from outside visitors to the local population.

In the months since, Melbourne has been placed into a lockdown, with no clear route out again, following an alarming spike in cases. The wider Victoria state suffered over Covid-19 related 750 deaths and more than 18,400 cases since the end of May.

As it became clear that the hotel quarantine had objectively failed, recriminations began as to the shortcomings of the program. After 25 hearings and 63 witnesses over the course of two months, in September, a public inquiry heard closing submissions from the counsel assisting the inquiry, with many blaming the state’s second wave squarely on the ineffective hotel quarantine program.

Victoria's hotel quarantine program spent millions on consultants

Outsourcing seems to have been at the heart of the failures the program suffered. The inquiry heard from security firms and subcontractors working at the hotels in question that at least 14 security guards tested positive for Covid-19, while carpooling for security guards was not prohibited by some of the companies involved until after one guard who had been carpooling tested positive.

Meanwhile, at a shift changeover for guards, there were reports of up to 70 guards in a room at one time.

Elsewhere, the Victorian government came under further fire for spending over $1 million on consultants for supporting the hotel quarantine program. Costs for externals spiralled beyond initial budgets, with the top beneficiary Boston Consulting Group paid $393,000 for its services, while Big Four firm PwC and Deloitte were paid almost $304,000 and $200,000 respectively for their expertise.

With the program still running, and some contractual agreements with external vendors including consulting firms still to be revealed, the total bill is expected to rise further in the coming period.

The Australian meanwhile published claims that Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews had also spent $3.5 million on consultants from KPMG for broader advice on the pandemic. Analysis found that the Victorian government spent about $97,235 per KPMG consultant over a four-month period from May to August, though Andrews refused to confirm if any of the 35 consultants were responsible for establishing the bungled hotel quarantine system linked to the deteriorating situation regarding Covid-19.

In the latest development in the case, on Friday Victoria's hotel quarantine inquiry announced it will hold an “extraordinary sitting” this week, in light of several new revelations that emerged after the hearings wrapped up.