From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Fiddling with the figures in Canberra. Can it be true that some Commonwealth departments and agencies have requested and been approved by the Department of Finance and Deregulation to operate at a loss in 2012-2013 as part of Labor’s number-crunching to post a budget surplus?

Loco loses steam in botched restoration. The state-owned RailCorp behemoth is under siege from Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, according to one Macquarie Street spy, over the botched restoration of “the pride of the fleet” steam locomotive 3801:

“The Office of Rail Heritage (created by former minister John Watkins) had carriage — pun intended — of the restoration which included a new boiler. Disaster struck ORH when the new boiler arrived only to not fit the frame. Essentially, the boiler is not fully round, does not fit in the frame and has unsafe/unfit welding in its construction — but apart from that she’s a beaut.

“In the meantime, there is an almighty stoush behind the scenes as the minister, RailCorp, the German manufacturer and the project team argue about the liability for this failing. It appears that nobody involved at all has any experience in boiler design or measurement, and that the tender process has been shown to be riven with as many defects as the boiler itself. The project has at least doubled in cost and is a major embarrassment for the minister. While the loco rests in a shed at Chullora, the minister appears incapable of solving this one.”

Parting gift from fired newsroom staffer. We’ve been, err, sitting on this one for a while but after speaking to our newsroom sources we’re confident it’s true: a non-editorial staffer fired from The Courier-Mail earlier this year really did defecate in the hallway as a parting gift to his News Limited employers. Or at least moved the present to the more prominent location; we can’t be sure of the exact logistics. Classy.

Overusing health: the private sector, too. Yesterday, Dr Tim Woodruff made the case on health blog Croakey (and in these pages) for how to tackle the over-utilisation of public health services. A medical industry insider says private hospitals are also part of the equation:

“One important point I don’t think people realise relates to over-servicing in private hospitals. People (insurance industry, Liberal Party) run the line that private healthcare ‘takes the load off’ Medicare. When a patient gets sent to a private hospital, they are billed fee-for-service by private specialists — which comes from the federal Medicare budget, rather than being seen by salaried public hospital doctors paid from state funds. That’s not a problem by itself, but there is a much higher level of cross-specialty referral in private hospitals. Have diabetes? See an endocrinologist (that’s another fee-for-service). Had any problems with your heart or blood-pressure? Better see a cardiologist.

“Medicare picks up 75% of the fee and the private health fund picks up the remaining 25%. The private funds really should fess up to the fact they are only picking up 25% of the bill; Medicare pays the rest and patients in public hospitals are paid by a different funding model. Value for money in private health rebates? Maybe not so much.”

*Do you know more? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed-anonymous form.