The agency charged with building and managing the $60 billion driverless train system has been scrutinised over its use of expensive contract staff earning about $2,000 a day.
Former contract staff Barry McGrattan and Paul Rogers were last year revealed as running consultancy firms – Bellgrove Advisory and PRO Consultants respectively – which had received millions of dollars in contracts to supply staff to the agency.
In an interview with 7.30, Sydney Metro chief executive Peter Regan stressed that neither man was involved in the awarding of contracts to their companies, and said an internal investigation into the matter had not substantiated what he described as “serious” allegations.
He said the matter was among “several” he had reported to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) during his tenure. A spokeswoman told 7.30 the commission was unable to confirm or deny whether it was investigating any matters related to Sydney Metro.
Mr Regan said Mr McGrattan and Mr Rogers were no longer working at Sydney Metro.
“We were concerned with the perception that created but also for those individuals,” Mr Regan said.
“Under those contracts that we have with the private sector, there is an ability to replace some of the individuals who were provided to provide services, and we agreed with both those parties that those two individuals who were named would be replaced by other people until those contracts were concluded.”
Mr Regan said some Bellgrove Advisory and PRO Consultants staff still working at Sydney Metro were nearing the end of current contracts and “we’re not expecting that there’ll be further extensions of those arrangements, because that work will be done”.
Mr McGrattan and Mr Rogers did not respond to 7.30’s requests for comment.
Mr Regan said he was confident in the culture at the organisation, and said an internal investigation did not find other people were working at Sydney Metro while running companies awarded work with the same agency.
“That is not the case, and I think it’s very important, of course, it’s not the case,” Mr Regan said.
‘The whole thing stinks’: Greens MP
New South Wales Greens MP Cate Faehrmann described the situation as “quite extraordinary”. She has sought to have documents relating to the use of contractors within Sydney Metro released publicly, but many remain privileged.
“It doesn’t matter whether they had direct involvement with the contract, the whole thing stinks,” she said.
“There’s hundreds of contracts that Sydney Metro is engaging in with very little transparency, and the ones we have been able to see just seem overblown.”
In a statement, Transport Minister Jo Haylen said the NSW government had awarded a tender to law firm Mills Oakley to take on the role of independent legal advisor to Sydney Metro.
“They are investigating whether all allegations received by Sydney Metro on the use of contractors have been appropriately addressed, and whether any changes to processes need to be made,” Ms Haylen said.
She added that Sydney Metro had gone through “line by line” to assess all contracts on their merits.
Since September, the number of professional services contractors has reduced from 467 to 256, she said.
“This is one of Australia’s largest and most expensive infrastructure projects and we want to make sure that the public gets genuine value for money when it comes to the benefits of Metro,” Ms Haylen said.
Mr Regan, who joined Sydney Metro in 2021 after working in other public transport roles, said a reliance on contractors was not unique to Sydney Metro.
“Getting the organisational structure to grow at the same speed as the commitments that are made by government and the time frames that are set is very challenging,” Mr Regan said.
“I think there’s lessons learned, and it is something that all public sector organisations have to deal with, that sort of quick way to get something done.
“It’s not the right way to get it done in the long run, and so we’ve got to find balance, and certainly we’re really, really focused on that at the moment.”