26 September 2023

Integrity Commission finds land staff clear

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The ACT Integrity Commission has found there was no corrupt conduct by the Chief Minister or any other public official in the sale of land in Dickson to the Canberra Tradesman’s Union Club (the Tradies Club) in 2014.

In its Special Report – Sale of Block 30, Section 34, Dickson, the Commission said it detailed its considerations of a corruption complaint about the sale of Block 30 in Dickson because the transaction had been the subject of public reports that attracted significant attention.

The Commission’s work followed a report from the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts that examined a 2018 performance audit on the sale by the then ACT Auditor-General.

It said that following an assessment of the complaint, the Commission was satisfied that the negative legal threshold required for commencing a corruption investigation was not met.

“There was no material that could reasonably give rise to any real doubt about the legal probity of the contracts,” the Commission said.

“Nor did the evidence give rise to any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing or corrupt conduct,” it said.

“The Commission is further of the view that many of the criticisms made by the Auditor-General and the (Assembly) Committee were not justified.”

The Commission said both the Auditor-General and Committee placed inappropriate reliance on an independent valuation of $3.18 million for Block 30, obtained by the Economic Development Directorate in 2012.

It said there was misapprehension of the true significance of the valuation.

“Neither the valuation nor their reports took account of the significant risks that would be faced by a purchaser of Block 30 arising from the very substantial delay in development that was part of the deal,” the Commission said.

“This would almost certainly substantially shrink the market interest in Block 30.

“The reliability of the estimate should also have been assessed in light of the number of bids (only two) and the actual prices offered (much lower).”

The Commission found the land sale process itself was adequate and complied with all necessary legal requirements.

It said that while there was an inappropriate lack of documentation surrounding some aspects of the transaction, there was sufficient material to enable the Commission to confidently conclude that there was no reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct on any person’s behalf.

The Commission’s 147-page Special Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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