PwC and the Adani mine triple dip. A conflict of interest? Surely not

by Rod Campbell | Jul 27, 2023 | Energy & Environment, Latest Posts

Consulting firm PwC pulled off a remarkable feat as Adani pushed to open its Carmichael Coal Mine — it got paid by both the miner and its government overseer. Rod Campbell reports on the maestros of conflicts of interest.  

A  humble footnote on page 30 of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility’s 2016-17 annual report reads: “PwC supported NAIF in the development of its Risk Management Framework.” NAIF was in the news in late 2016 because it had reportedly given “conditional approval” of a $1 billion loan to Adani for its Carmichael Coal Mine.

In news that may surprise precisely no one, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was also working for Adani. In fact, not only did PwC “act for” Adani in trying to secure the NAIF loan, the firm also produced economic modelling that purported to show that delays to the Adani mine had cost Queensland 2,665 jobs.

Would you like to read that economic report yourself? Well, you can’t, because it’s “strictly private and confidential”.

The report was so strictly private and confidential that it was never published by Adani or PwC. It was also so strictly private and confidential that Matt Canavan used it in a speech, Nick Cater used it in The Australian and it got written up in the Courier Mail

PwC

Fulsome disclosure

The Australia Institute has obtained a scan of a hard copy, shown above. Reading the report reveals that it was based on “information provided by Adani”, and also on Adani’s infamous 10,000 jobs report, which was later shot down by another consultant to Adani.

What’s better than two dips? Three, of course

At the same time they were “supporting” NAIF and “acting for” Adani, PwC was also providing consulting services to the Federal Department of Industry… which oversees/facilitates NAIF. According to AusTender, PwC did about $1.5m worth of work for the Department of Industry in 2016 and 2017. 

So PwC was working for Adani, working for NAIF, and working for the department that oversees NAIF. With such a set-up, readers might be surprised to learn that Adani didn’t get the $1bn loan.

Why? Because of a conflict of interest! 

Not the conflict of interest between PwC and its clients on both sides of the deal, mind you. No, the conflict of interest was that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was dating a senior PwC executive.

Hurley Berlei: Adani’s desperate compo claim doesn’t stack up

Premier Palaszczuk’s decision to veto the NAIF loan was apparently made to avoid a smear campaign from the LNP opposition – which, nevertheless, supported the loan. 

The really funny bit of the whole sordid business is that no one believed that Palaszczuk was worried about conflicts—everyone thought she was more worried about polling numbers opposing the Adani loan, or maybe the persistent governance failings of the NAIF.

But this is all history, right? 

Surely governments keep a close eye on Adani now, right?

Surely everyone involved is now right across governance best practice

Surely no-one would do something like working for a fossil fuel company and then for the government department that oversees that company

Surely no government department would provide information—private and confidential information, mind you—to a consulting firm like PwC if that firm also worked for companies who’d love to get their hands on that  information? 

Surely PwC wouldn’t be daft—and unethical—enough to actually pass that information onto its clients

Surely not!

But the deeper one looks into the web of links between big business, government and financial services firms, the more tangled that web becomes. Who knows what other delights are lurking behind claims of commercial confidentiality and other such smokescreens? Not the taxpayer, that’s for sure. They just get to foot the bill.

The Charge of the Lignite Brigade

Rod Campbell is the Research Director at The Australia Institute.

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