28 August 2023

The Albanese Government stops Business Registers Program after independent review damning assessment

The Albanese Government has today announced it will stop the Coalition’s Modernising Business Registers (MBR) program following independent review findings that the program could not deliver value for money, with massive budget and timeline blowouts.

The independent review found the MBR program was way off course and could now cost up to $2.8 billion. This is more than five times the original $480.5 million estimate announced by the Morrison Government.

The review, commissioned by the Albanese Government and led by Mr Damon Rees PSM, found the expected economic benefits of the program do not justify the revised costs. It also found that the program would not be able to be delivered in full until 2029 – a delay of five years.

While the review considered options to turn the program around, it ultimately concluded that the program should stop.

The review identified several key drivers for the program’s cost blowout. These include:

  • A significant underestimation of complexity when the program was conceived.
  • Significantly greater than planned use of contractors, leading to increases in labour costs.
  • Previous Government decisions to expand the scope of the program before it was delivered.
  • Issues emerging due to the previous Government’s decision to transfer responsibilities from ASIC to ATO.
  • Direct consequences resulting from the COVID‑19 pandemic.

The Albanese Government remains committed to making it easy for businesses to register their details and will prioritise the stabilisation of existing registers.

This will deliver greater stability and cyber protection outcomes, providing immediate benefits to Australian businesses.

Business as usual registry operations will continue under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. DirectorID, which is already helping regulators target illegal anti‑phoenixing behaviour, will also be unaffected.

The independent review found that additional targeted investments could deliver improvements to the current registries. The Government will consider options to uplift registries following further analysis.

The overarching conclusion of the review is: bigger is not better. The temptation to load programs up with greater scope than necessary reduces the likelihood of success. The Albanese Government will look to apply the lessons from the MBR review to other digital and IT projects, including future projects.

The MBR Independent Review full report can be found on the Treasury website.