Newly minted senator Rex Patrick has tabled explosive allegations that a Commonwealth official is currently under investigation over financial management of aspects of Australia’s Future Submarine Office in Cherbourg, France.
At the latest Defence Senate estimates, Senator Patrick put questions to Defence regarding the allegations and the process that went into funding the facility for Australia's $50 billion Future Submarines project.
"My understanding is that there is a Commonwealth official under investigation at this present moment relating to misappropriation of funds," Senator Patrick said.
Secretary of the Defence Department Greg Moriarty confirmed the department is currently conducting an investigation into these matters.
"Defence is conducting an investigation into some allegations in relation to financial management around aspects of that, but just to confirm for you we are confident about the building," Moriarty told estimates.
"I don't want to go into further detail while there's a proper process underway, but just to let you know that we are undergoing an investigation."
Deputy Secretary of Capability Acquisition Sustainment Group (CASG) Kim Gillis added that Defence has "full confidence" in the recently opened building, stressing the security of the facility is secure.
"I can say to you that I have full confidence in the construction of that building, the security of that building an I'm happy that we've ended up with a fine facility," Gillis said.
"Allegations are just that at this stage."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull opened Australia’s Future Submarine Office in Cherbourg in July, in the presence of the French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly.
The office is a tripartite secure facility that will house submarine designers, naval architects and engineers who will work alongside each other on Australia’s Future Submarine Program. The facility is known as ‘Hughes House’, in recognition of Rear Admiral Owen ‘Oscar’ Hughes, AO and his role in Australia’s submarine history as director of the Collins Submarine Project.
Construction of the submarines will begin in 2022.
The first of the 12 submarines is likely to begin entering service in the early 2030s. Construction of the 12 new submarines will extend into the late 2040s to 2050 timeframe.
Defence Connect has contacted Naval Group, Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defence for further comment.
Defence has provided Defence Connect with the following statement.
As mentioned at the Senate Estimates Hearing, at which Defence participated in earlier today, there is an investigation being undertaken in relation to alleged inappropriate conduct by a member of the Australian Public Service working in the Future Submarine Program. The investigation has not had any impact on the construction of the Cherbourg facility. That investigation is being conducted by the Department and as it is on-going, it would be inappropriate to release further details at this time.