New South Wales Treasurer Eric Roozendaal is being accused of a writing a blank cheque to consultants during his bid to sell off the state’s electricity assets.
Previously secret cabinet documents show the NSW Government expects to spend more than $160 million on the sale process.
Credit Suisse is one of the biggest beneficiaries, expecting to pocket a $26 million success fee, while a public relations company is being paid up $30,000 a week.
Electricity privatisation came at great political cost to former premier Morris Iemma, but the cost to the taxpayer is just as dramatic.
The Government has been forced by the Upper House to reveal the costs associated with the sell-off.
The papers reveal that as of February, $71 million had already been spent on consultants.
The spending was expected to hit $170 million by the end of this financial year when the sale was set to be completed, but it could go higher now that the sale has been delayed until the end of the year.
“Well, the numbers are astronomical. I mean they’re almost beyond belief,” Opposition treasury spokesman Mike Baird said.
“Everyone understands consultants are required for a transaction such as this but this almost seems to be a blank cheque for whoever wants to get a ticket to the party.”
Chief advisers Lazard and Credit Suisse are expected to share about $120 million while Ernst and Young has already raked in $21 million.
Public relations firm Cosway is being paid up to $30,000 a week and along with Gavin Anderson, the PR bill alone stands at $2.7 million.
“Well, I’m not quite sure what they’ve got to communicate, they haven’t completed the transaction. The only thing we’ve heard is it’s been delayed indefinitely,” Mr Baird said.
“The top two executives overseeing the sale are also being paid more than $500,000 a year each, easily eclipsing the premier’s salary.
“The jobs weren’t advertised either. Both were installed without the normal process because of what the Government called the extreme urgency of the sale.
“There is no rush. A transaction like this should not be done under a motivation of an election.”
There was another pertinent document in the 23 boxes of information delivered to Parliament House – it is marked “Internal Working Document” and comes from NSW Treasury.
It gave this advice to cabinet: “It’s important to be running a tight ship. Every dollar saved in the transaction process is an extra dollar the Government can invest in front line services.”