A joint parliamentary committee has recommended that Defence commission a performance review or independent external audit of its entire helicopter acquisition program, amid ongoing concerns over the MRH-90 helicopters project.
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The joint committee of public accounts and audit has issued recommendations to Defence following its review of the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) 2018-19 Defence Major Projects Report.
Among the seven recommendations (largely concerning ANAO’s reporting methods), was a call for Defence to commission a performance review or independent external audit of the entire helicopter acquisition program in advance of upcoming helicopter acquisitions by Navy and Army.
This was in response to the ANAO’s identification of the MRH-90 helicopters program as a ‘project of concern’.
The Multi-Role Helicopter (AIR 9000 Phase 2, 4 and 6) (MRH) project has been considered a project of concern since November 2011, with Defence acknowledging that a “considerable amount of support” is needed to achieve the required flying rates.
“The committee is of the view that Defence would benefit from a review being undertaken on their helicopter acquisitions, especially as Navy and Army acquire new helicopters as part of their fleet,” the parliamentary committee observed.
“This could be conducted by an independent auditor, the Auditor-General, or by a similar appropriately qualified entity.”
This follows the release of the ANAO’s latest 2019-20 Defence Major Projects report, in which the MRH-90 helicopters program was still listed as a ‘project of concern’, along with the Joint Strike Fighter, Hawkei, Battlefield Command System, and Battlefield Airlifter programs.
Accordingly, the ANAO has rated the expected capability performance of all 25 major defence projects at 98 per cent, with the remaining programs on track to achieving full capability.