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Delayed Australian projects behind schedule by an average of 40 months, says auditor

The Australian National Audit Office's annual report on the country's major defence projects has revealed that key programmes hit by delays are behind schedule, on average, by nearly 3.5 years.

The 2020–21 Major Projects Report (MPR) also disclosed that 16 of 21 key programmes have suffered delays as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It said such delays have resulted in project underspends.

The report said, “Across MPR projects that have experienced slippage … the average [delay] is 40 months (3.38 years).”

The total schedule slippage across the 21 major projects is 405 months, according to the report. The total is lower than the 507 months recorded in 2019–20 because several projects that had experienced severe delays – such as the Hobart-class destroyers – have been rectified.

While the removal of such projects reduced total delays by 175 months, this was offset by “in-year slippage” of five projects that added 73 months, the report said.

These projects included the Airbus MRH-90 Taipan helicopters, which Canberra announced on 10 December that it aims to replace with Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks. According to the report, the MRH-90 project is behind schedule by 95 months.

Other delayed programmes include the procurement of Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles (67 months); the C-27J Spartan light tactical aircraft programme (54 months); the civil-military air traffic management system (47 months); the UAF satellite communication project (42 months); and the battlespace communication system project (36 months).

The 16 projects that had their scheduling impacted by the pandemic attributed delays to factors such as supplier disruptions including shipping delays, workforce limitations including travel restrictions, and contractor delays including certification. It said six of the 16 delayed projects experienced an underspend.

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