Australia said on Thursday it could not cancel existing contracts with auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which is embroiled in a scandal over leaks of secret government tax plans to corporate clients, due to legal restrictions.
The move comes as parliamentarians have called for PwC Australia’s existing government contracts to be scrapped and banned from obtaining new government contracts in the wake of the scandal.
The government, which is a PwC Australia client, has asked police to look into the leaked tax documents and consider opening a criminal investigation.
Claire O’Neill, the Home Secretary, said on ABC radio, when asked if she would stop any new government contracts with PricewaterhouseCoopers.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers spokesman declined to comment on the minister’s comments and referred to an earlier statement in which the auditor said it was “committed to learning from its mistakes”. The chief executive of PricewaterhouseCoopers for Australia resigned this month after the scandal.
The government said a former tax partner in the firm improperly used confidential Commonwealth information. Emails released in Parliament earlier this month revealed that several cabinet members were aware of the information.
O’Neill told ABC radio that PricewaterhouseCoopers’ actions constituted an “egregious betrayal of trust” by the government and the public.
“We will not stop until we get to the bottom of what happened. This is a shameful incident that needs a full investigation. Those responsible will be held accountable,” the minister said.
PricewaterhouseCoopers said this month that former Telstra and Optus CEO Ziggy Switkowski would conduct an independent investigation into the leak and present its findings and recommendations in September.