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Ernst and Young Launch a Strong Defense for their Consultancy Work on Commonwealth Games Cancellation

Ernst & Young partners have defended their consultancy work on the cost estimates for the 2026 Commonwealth Games but declined to provide sufficient information on the blowout, which led to the cancellation of the 12-day sporting event.

“We stand by the work we did,” Dean Yates, a partner at EY, told a Senate inquiry in Melbourne on Aug. 28. The response comes amid criticisms from senators against Mr. Yates and another E&Y partner Leigh Walker for refusing to disclose what led to the cost blowout and how much they received in payment for the cost analysis they provided, citing confidentiality terms.

“Given the confidential nature of this project, the discussions were confined to a core project team of key stakeholders and did not involve other sporting organisations, venue operators and other government departments, or the Commonwealth,” Mr. Yates said.

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“It meant that we were estimating preliminary costs because the ability to verify those things was limited given the constraints that we had.”

Several senators did not accept the responses of Mr. Yates and Ms. Walker, with Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie criticising the consultants for their “appalling disrespect.”

“[You’re] saying you’re not prepared to be public about what you were paid to actually develop a business case that has seen Victorian taxpayers fork out hundreds of millions of dollars for non-existing Commonwealth Games,” Ms. McKenzie said.

The Victorian government agreed to compensate Commonwealth Games organisers $380m for the cancellation of the event after cost estimates for hosting it ballooned from $2.6 billion (US$1.67 billion) to $7 billion. The games were planned to be held in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland, and Shepparton from March 17 to March 29, 2026.

According to the consultancy company’s estimates, the federal government would need to provide the Victorian government with $205 million in a worst-case and $215 million in a best-case scenario to host the games.

Mr. Yates said that the consultancy firm applied the same framework used to assess major events, such as the Melbourne Grand Prix, to the business case of the Commonwealth Games.

“I don’t accept that it is a matter of confidentiality because in our Commonwealth system, reporting of contract values is part of the public process of managing the expenditure of public funds,” Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck said.

Ms. Walker maintained that she and Mr. Yates are not at liberty to respond to the questions as that would be “breaching confidentiality with a government contract is of heightened sensitivity.”

Response Lambasted By Senators

Senator Sarah Henderson said that the pair’s responses were “rubbish” and “just an absolute cop-out.”

Commonwealth Games Australia CEO Craig Phillips said that the board had been notified of the cost blowouts in April, months away from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who declined to attend the inquiry, officially announced the event cancellation on July 18.

Mr. Phillips noted that despite the board presenting recommendations to reduce the costs, it did not receive any feedback before the event was axed.

“We were involved in some discussions around some measures to actually reduce those costs,” the CEO said. Mr. Phillips also explained that the multi-hub regional model, which “was more expensive to host than traditional models” became a factor in the increased costs.

Meanwhile, Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate is keen to have the games be hosted in Queensland, stating that he believes the state can deliver.

“I’m confident that we can put the Games together budgeting around $750 million to $1 billion,” Mr. Tate said. “I’m confident that we can resurrect it and deliver a Commonwealth Games.”

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