Defense spending on musical instruments rings a sour note


While the ADF has blocked $ 95,000 worth of electric guitars, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has repeatedly expressed its concerns. Last year, a total of $ 47.4 billion in contracts were added to Austender’s database, with ADF deals accounting for about 70 percent of that.

In December 2017, a heavily written audit report on Austender found that “proper records and documentation had not been kept” and that decision-making regarding procurement was neither transparent nor accountable. In another 2017 audit, only 41 of the 155 contracts examined were properly reported to Austender.

“Inaccuracies in contract dates, contract values, method of supply and categories of supply” were found by ANAO in 2017.

The SunHerald The investigation revealed defense tenders for flights with QANTAS dated January 1900, a $ 11,466 contract with Cabcharge for the supply of “spacecraft” and a $ 10,473 contract for “production. quick facts of the defense 2011 ”which ends in 5011.

Deputy Chairman of the Federal Parliament’s Public Accounts and Audit Committee Julian Hill said value for money, lack of competitive processes and probity issues are persistent issues with public procurement and that ” the same botched practices keep happening. “

For example, during a recent inquiry into the provision of an air traffic control system, the Labor MP said one official described the “complete lack of documentation” as “porous record keeping”.

“My concern is that the culture and the systemic issues, which continue to occur, are not being addressed seriously and sufficiently by the government,” said Mr. Hill. “Procurement needs to be seen much more clearly as a professional capability in large agencies and not as something every public servant should do. “

The chairman of the federal public accounts and audit committee, Liberal Senator Dean Smith, has said that reviewing government spending is “the highest priority for parliament.”

“The Australian taxpayer’s point of view is simple: they want the government to do only the things that are absolutely necessary and do so without wasting hard-earned taxpayer money.”

A defense spokesperson said that while “some non-compliance with procurement policy requirements” had been identified, there was “no evidence to suggest fraud or corruption” and “all conclusions of the audit have been processed “.

“Defense is reviewing its musical instrument purchasing practices to ensure a centralized and cost-effective approach across the three services,” said the spokesperson.

“Members are provided with professional quality equipment upon enrollment so that they can perform their duties. The instruments should be used over a period of 15 to 20 years in professional performance.

Defense Minister Senator Marise Payne said “professional grade” musical instruments were expensive, but there were “inconsistent approaches” to purchasing instruments between ADF departments.

“I have asked my department to review and report to me and report on musical instrument purchasing practices to make sure they are consistent across all departments and provide value for money for them. taxpayers, ”Ms. Payne said.


Overall, the Defense reported 29 “significant non-compliances” with the finance law, proven to be fraud and dealt with by criminal, disciplinary or administrative measures in 2016-2017.

A total of 248 contracts or modifications, valued at $ 434,141,533, were exempt from posting on Austender’s website under the provisions of the FOI Act. These exemptions were generally applied under national security, defense or international relations provisions.

The finance ministry administers the Austender website and a spokesperson said it was designed to “ensure transparency and accountability regarding government tenders and contracts.”

“Finance engages with agencies through various forums and publishes updated guidance documents, including on issues identified in ANAO performance audits,” said a spokesperson.

The ADF has 294 full-time and 445 part-time musicians who, since 2007, have been outfitted to the tune of over $ 5,500 each.

Some of the individual expenses surveyed by the Sun-Herald understand:

  • Flute $ 25,025 (2016) purchase of a Burkart flute purchased to directly replace a 20-year-old flute.
  • Tenor Trombone with Accessories – $ 49,342 for 10 trombones and accessories including cases, lyres, mouthpieces and mutes.
  • French horn and accessories $ 114,950 – 10 French horns and accessories including case, lyre and mouthpiece.
  • Wine in goblet and champagne flute in goblet $ 14,425 – 3,500 wine glasses and 600 champagne glasses, distributed to messes operated by La Défense.

The Department of Defense has the highest number of tenders and some of the latest reports, with six-year delays in reporting items like “Rations – Meat” or “Rations – Dries” from 2011, ending in 2012 and reported in 2017.

* An earlier version of this story included a quote from RMIT Professor of Human Security and International Diplomacy Joseph Siracusa, who said that musicians who play in the US military provide their own instruments. This is not correct, the US military supplies instruments to its full time musicians.

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