Government ‘not transparent’ on Comm Games cost blowout

March 20, 2024 3:30 pm in by
In May 2023, South Barwon MP Darren Cheeseman was still spruiking Armstrong Creek as the future Commonwealth Games aquatic centre (supplied).

A scathing report released from the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office indicates the Andrews Government was not transparent about cost blowouts of the scrapped 2026 Commonwealth Games.

The examination into the withdrawal from hosting the Comm Games, which were set to be held in-part in Geelong, found the cost estimate of $6.9 billion was ‘overstated’ and ‘not transparent’.

The report also found the total cost of cancelling the event amounted to over $589 million, with suggestions it could have been avoided if agencies had worked together better to give frank and full advice to the government before deciding to host the games.

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Victorian Premier and former Minister for the Delivery of the Commonwealth Games, Jacinta Allan, said she stands by the numbers the government used to abandon the event.

“The secretary’s of both departments stand behind the advice they gave to the government at the time, that the $6.9 billion figure was the upper-estimate of the cost that they anticipated would be needed to deliver the games,” she said.

“Let’s be clear, and again the Auditor-General’s report bears this out, costs were only going one way.”

A former parliamentary secretary for the Commonwealth Games and the Member for South Barwon, Darren Cheeseman, has refused to comment or provide a response on Wednesday’s damning report.

Mr Cheeseman pocketed almost $50,000 on top of his salary for the additional portfolio, while the Herald Sun reported in July he was still receiving additional pay once the event was scrapped.

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The VAGO report also suggested more than $200 million was going to be spent on the Kardinia Park precinct to host aquatics and gymnastics, and the decision to move the sports to new venues in Waurn Ponds and Armstrong Creek would have cost another $80 million.

That decision to move the events to new venues came despite a lack of support from the City of Greater Geelong.

Since the cancellation, Council still expects the government will invest the funds into the redevelopment of Kardinia Park, due to the legacy commitments the government made post-cancellation.