The Urban Congestion Fund (UCF) was established in the 2018–19 federal budget. The stated objective of the UCF was to ‘support projects to remediate pinch points, improve traffic safety and increase network efficiency for commuter and freight movements in urban areas’.
As at 31 March 2021, there had been 155 candidate projects selected under the UCF involving 188 sub-projects or sites. The types of projects announced included road upgrades, road extensions, intersection upgrades, level-crossing removals and commuter car park upgrades.
The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the administration of the commuter car park projects within the UCF. To form a conclusion against this objective, the following high-level criteria were applied:
- Was the UCF well designed?
- Was an appropriate approach taken to identifying and selecting commuter car park projects?
- Were funding decisions on commuter car park projects informed by appropriate advice?
- Are approved commuter car park projects being delivered?
- The Department of Infrastructure’s administration of the commuter car park projects within the Urban Congestion Fund was not effective.
- The design and implementation of the Urban Congestion Fund relied on existing arrangements generic to infrastructure investment projects. The department did not develop a program-specific implementation plan, performance indicators or evaluation plan. As a $4.8 billion initiative, which included a car park component that was new for the Australian Government, customisation was warranted. The potential for research and data to inform program design and project identification was not fully realised. Record keeping was not compliant with departmental and Australian Government policies.
- The department’s approach to identifying and selecting commuter car park projects for funding commitment was not appropriate. It was not designed to be open or transparent. The department did not engage with state governments and councils, which increased the risk that selected projects would not deliver the desired outcomes at the expected cost to the Australian Government. Departmental advice did not contain an assessment against the investment principles or policy objectives and it was not demonstrated that projects were selected on merit. The distribution of projects selected reflected the geographic and political profile of those given the opportunity by the government to identify candidates for funding consideration.