The Tasmanian government has been accused of wasting more than $700,000 in taxpayers’ money upgrading a motel owned by a Liberal Party member before abandoning plans to use it as a COVID-19 management site.
Most important points:
- The hotel has been renovated to be used as a COVID case management facility but was deemed unsuitable due to storm damage
- Opposition leader Rebecca White said the state government should try to recoup tax money spent
- Deputy Prime Minister Michael Ferguson said the facility had been selected by the Department of Health and he did not know who owned it
The revelations have sparked calls to recover the money spent on refurbishing Burnie’s Wellers Inn.
Responses filed in state parliament revealed that $717,246 was spent on refurbishing and renting the hotel to be used as a COVID case management facility just because it was deemed unsuitable due to storm damage.
Those costs include $356,000 to rent the facility for three months, just over $60,000 to install Wi-Fi and CCTV, $20,000 for miscellaneous repairs and $278,000 for on-site security and fencing.
Shadow Health Minister Anita Dow on Thursday questioned spending in the state parliament.
“This obscene waste of taxpayers’ money to upgrade a Liberal Party member’s hotel stinks,” she said.
Opposition leader Rebecca White said the state government should try to recoup the tax money spent.
“Tasmanians should be shocked that $700,000 has been spent to upgrade a hotel to accommodate patients with COVID, when no patient has been held there.”
Facility ‘selected by the Ministry of Health’
Ms White said the government needed to explain how Wellers Inn was selected as a case management hotel and why no expression of interest procedure was held.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael Ferguson said the facility had been selected by the Department of Health and he did not know who owned it.
“If it’s a Liberal Party member who owns that hotel, well, that would be a question for the Ministry of Health,” he said.
He said the government is still exploring “options to maximize value” from its contract with Wellers Inn
Nigel Morgan, co-owner of Wellers Inn, told The Advocate newspaper in February that he told the Department of Health that he was a member of the Liberal Party and chairman of the Braddon electoral committee when it contacted him to open his motel. use as a COVID management facility.
“I was candid with them and said I’m in this position, and they came back and said it was fine,” Morgan told the paper.
Wellers Inn was contacted for comment.
Three case management facilities, in Devonport, Launceston and Hobart, treated 469 symptomatic COVID-positive patients in the six months after state borders reopened to COVID hotspots.
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