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'Sayers what': Ex-PWC CEO's firm given $6.2 million in government contracts

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Former CEO of PWC, Luke Sayers (image via YouTube)

The private company of the man who was CEO of PwC Australia during the entire tax leaks affair has received over $6.2 million in taxpayer funds in just the past two years.

Sayers Group — a “consulting” company Luke Sayers set up after he left PwC in 2020 — has received 17 federal government contracts since April 2021, totalling $6,262,007.21.

Sayers was PWC Australia CEO from 2012 until May 2020 and so boss of the company for the entire period it was illegally selling federal government tax policy secrets, the scandal roiling the company and making international headlines.

Just like PwC, Sayers Group cashes in on government “outsourcing”, making large sums of money from government contracts by providing services that were previously undertaken by the public service.

In just the past five weeks, three new Sayers Group contracts totalling $330,550 have been disclosed on AusTender, the Federal Government’s tender register.

Last month, the Department of Health and Aged Care awarded Sayers Group a $226,050 contract for 'management support services'; and two weeks ago it was disclosed it had been awarded a $49,500 contract from federal agency Geoscience Australia for 'business intelligence consulting services'.

Federal contracts are required to be disclosed on AusTender, but details are generally scant.

In October last year, five months after the Labor Federal Government took office, Sayers Group was given a $71,500 contract by Anthony Albanese’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The purpose is stated only as: 'ICT Services', 'Category: Business administration services'.

Taxpayer bonanza: Luke Sayers' private company given $6.2 million in government contracts (Source: Austender).

In 2013 the Australian Government engaged PwC to advise it on how to crack down on tax avoidance by multinational corporations and develop new Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law (MAAL).

PwC then took that confidential information and sold it to multinational clients seeking to evade Australian tax, particularly in the U.S.

A cache of internal company emails released by a Senate inquiry this month reveals PwC called it "Project North America".

The revelations have sparked widespread outrage, drawing serious condemnation from both major political parties and calls for PwC to be stripped of all government contracts.

Those calls are likely to be extended to Sayers Group, given it is run by the man in charge at PwC at all relevant times of the serious impropriety.

Last Thursday, Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said what PwC had engaged in was “an absolute disgrace” and that Treasury was “looking into this” and what “sanctions may be available”.

He said:

“The relationship between the Commonwealth and the consultant organisations that we work with is based on trust and we cannot work with you if that trust is breached."

Remarkably, Sayers is refusing to comment on the PwC scandal.

His position at Sayers Group is 'founder and executive chairman'.

'Luke has created his own Private Equity fund to start Sayers, of which he is the major shareholder,' his bio states.

Sayers is president of Carlton Football Club, a position he has held since August 2021.

Cate Sayers, Luke’s wife, made headlines last year after she appeared in political advertisements spruiking then-Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for re-election.

The founder and director of government-funded disability charity the Inclusion Foundation, Cate appeared in advertisements under the heading 'Why I am voting for Josh Frydenberg' (Luke Sayers is chair of Inclusion Foundation).

In the advertisements, Cate is quoted gushing for Frydenberg, saying he had a 'massive track record' of supporting 'our local charities'.

It is illegal for charities to endorse politicians or political parties and Frydenberg was forced to scrap the advertisements.

Yet it appears Cate Sayers has faced no penalties.

As previously reported, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has refused to comment on the matter, instead falsely claiming it is legally prevented from doing so under “secrecy provisions” in its legislation.

Karen Hayes, then Guide Dogs Victoria CEO, appeared in similar advertisements and was ousted from the charity over the scandal.

In her advertisement, Cate Sayers says she invited Frydenberg to an event in 2010 and 'since then he has attended so many of our events… Because he cares'.

Luke Sayers is very close to politicians on both major sides of politics.

Both Labor Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Frydenberg attended his 50th birthday in 2019.

This month, the federal government released a bombshell audit which found that in 2021-22 — private businesses were paid a massive $20.8 billion to deliver public services.

This “shadow public service” was equivalent to almost 54,000 full-time workers, compared to about 144,000 in the Australian Public Sector workforce.

The Centre for Public Integrity, an anti-corruption think tank founded by former top judges report, says rampant outsourcing is 'decimating' the public service and undermining the national interest.

It released a report Monday showing government contracts to the “big four” consultancies have exploded by over 400 per cent over the past decade.

At the same time political “donations” — effectively soft bribes — have surged.

It states:

'Over the last ten years, the Big Four (KPMG, PwC, Ernst & Young and Deloitte) have donated $4,289,253 to the ALP and Coalition.' 

Political “donations” from the four firms grew from $388,200 in 2012-13 to $520,081 in 2021-22.

'Over the same period, total contract volume for the firms jointly has increased by over 400 per cent, from $282 million in 2012-13 to over $1.4 billion in 2021-22. While business has boomed for the Big Four, the Australian Public Service – one of the pillars upon which our Westminster democracy depends – has been left with static staff numbers and a diminished policy capability, the document states.

The Sayers, who live in a $15 million mansion in Melbourne’s Hawthorn East, have made a private fortune on the back of the Australian public — first via PwC, then the Sayers Group.

The couple’s 19th Century manor, “Strathner”, is 'clearly one of Melbourne’s most significant estates', says one luxury real estate agent.

Documents filed with the ACNC show the charity the pair run, Inclusion Foundation, is a major recipient of taxpayer cash.

As previously revealed, in the 2021-22 financial year the charity received $933,986 in government grants, which was over six times higher than its average over the preceding decade.

Government grants to Inclusion Foundation exploded in 2020-2021 (Source: ACNC). 

How much of the $933,986 came from the federal government is not known because Inclusion Foundation has not reported that information in its financial statements.

The subsequently pulled advertisements featuring Cate Sayers (which had been officially endorsed by Frydenberg) appeared in April last year, weeks before the Federal Election.

Sayers says “Josh” had given 'unwavering commitment' and recently made a 'significant investment' into Inclusion Foundation’s Impact21 program.

'Because he cares Josh has always supported the Inclusion Foundation, most recently with a significant investment into Impact21,' Cate Sayers says in the advertisements.

Cate Sayers, Luke Sayers and the Inclusion Foundation have repeatedly refused to comment when approached.

On Tuesday last week, Sayers Group’s latest Federal Government contract was disclosed: $55,000 from the Federal Department of Education under a “category” called 'strategic planning consultation services'.

The reason given is simply 'planning and facilitator services'.

No other information is provided.

Anthony Klan is an investigative journalist and editor of ''The Klaxon'. You can follow him on Twitter @Anthony_Klan. This article was originally published on The Klaxon and has been republished with permission.

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