09/05/2022 - 15:30

At least $500m spent fighting COVID

09/05/2022 - 15:30

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More than half-a-billion dollars of COVID-related government expenses were incurred in the year to June 2021, according to the state's auditor general.

At least $500m spent fighting COVID
Appropriate use of emergency powers, authorised by state parliament, should be the subject of a future review, says the auditor general. Photo: Attila Csaszar

State government departments spent $577.5 million between them on COVID-related expenses in the year to June 2021, with the bulk of costs incurred in hotel and security costs associated with the state's quarantining processes.

New analysis from the state's auditor general shows $204 million was incurred by the Department of Health in FY21, with $113.3 million spent on hotels and $95.7 million spent on security.

That compared to just $20.4 million spent on hotel quarantining in FY20.

Health Support Services incurred the next largest cost, at $39.6 million, with $13.4 million of that paying for additional staff needed to help the state's pandemic response.

Significant staffing costs were also associated with expenses incurred by North Metropolitan Health Service ($30.3 million) and South Metropolitan Health Service ($25.4 million).

In her accompanying overview, auditor general Caroline Spencer conceded border closures had excarbeted staffing problems, while noting the stress of the pandemic may have allowed financial management and governance foundations to inadvertantly backslide.

"This is a concern as they are essential for supporting long-term confidence and capability in our public institutions," she wrote.

"This increases the risk that other critical areas of public administration, including accountability and audit responsibilities, may not receive the level of focus or priority they would usually warrant."

Elsewhere in the report, Ms Spencer also endorsed a systemic, impartial review of both the federal and state government's response to the pandemic, with specific reference to its impact on the WA community.

That included a cost-benefit analysis that would frame future use of emergency powers or allocation of resources for future pandemics.

"This would capture learnings in preparation for future pandemics and other emerging crises and assist in setting transparent criteria and thresholds for proportionate, risk-based and consequential responses," she wrote.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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