The ACT Budget: why spending money is harder than you’d think

On the eve of the ACT Budget, PTCBR isn’t overly optimistic there will be new goodies for transport. The ACT Government has been pretty open about what its priorities are. This is before we get to the constraints of an inflationary environment, and the Territory’s funds only going so far.

Still, before the budget is prepared, there’s an annual consultation process, where ACT community organisations are invited to make submissions about where funds should go and how they should be spent.

PTCBR made a submission, as we do every year. There also aren’t any real surprises there, but it’s a good summary of what we think is important work, even if they aren’t big ticket items. Most of our items are actually requests for the ACT Government to deliver what it has promised in previous budgets. If you read the budget documents, particularly for Transport Canberra, you can see that there are a number of projects which are continually “re-profiled”. This means they had the money, wanted to spend it, but didn’t get around to doing so, and so wanted to try again the next year.

There can be a number of reasons for this. Sometimes, there are failed procurement processes, like what happened with the ticketing system. Other times these projects never go out to tender in the first place, because the bureaucracy’s priorities are elsewhere. The new Woden Bus Depot is the biggest example of this: it’s been on the budget books since 2016, and is only happening now! It might sound rather bland, but Transport Canberra won’t be able to buy more buses (including electric buses) to run more services until this depot is built.

It’s for this reason we’ve called on the ACT Government to invest in more project delivery capabilities to ensure these projects actually get out the door. Again, it’s not sexy, but it’s what we need to get a better transport system.


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