ACT News

Caroline Le Couteur questions Chief Minister Andrew Barr on handling of Glebe Park land purchase

Greens parliamentarian Caroline Le Couteur confronted Chief Minister Andrew Barr over his handling of the Land Development Agency land purchases on Thursday, asking why he hadn't ordered an investigation into the agency's "apparent misconduct".

Ms Le Couteur was referring to the findings of Auditor-General Maxine Cooper last year into the agency's purchase of land in Glebe Park.

Dr Cooper found a document had been "manipulated" after the agency received a freedom of information request for valuations for for the land.

The document's title had been changed from "discussion paper" to "valuation advice" before it was released, and was used as justification for the payment of $3.8 million plus GST to developers Barry Morris and Graham Potts.

"Submitting manipulated information in response to a freedom of information request is unacceptable," Dr Cooper reported.

Dr Cooper also reported that the purchase of the land had been approved by agency chief executive David Dawes and only advised to the agency board after the event.

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Ms Le Couteur asked Mr Barr in Question Time why he hadn't asked the Public Sector Standards Commissioner to investigate "apparent serious misconduct by Land Development Agency officials" in relation to the "manipulation of official records".

Mr Barr said there were no allegations of misconduct or improper behaviour against any officers and the auditor had been clear on that.

Rather, she had found processes had lacked transparency and rigour, he said.

The change to the document had been just two words in the title. But it was nevertheless a very serious issue that had been dealt with at the agency level, Mr Barr said. It had been investigated at the time. The investigation had found the document had been altered by a third party, and the officer had been aware of the alteration but unaware of the implications of the alteration. The officer had been counselled and given FOI training, Mr Barr said.

Dr Cooper reported that that officer had since been moved into a more senior position, as an agency executive.

Ms Le Couteur also asked Mr Barr why he hadn't asked the commissioner to investigate the agency chief executive's "apparent misconduct", given he "appears to have misled" the Assembly's planning committee in November 2015 "when he indicated that the Glebe Park acquisitions had received board approval prior to purchase, when the auditor-general's report indicated otherwise".

Mr Barr responded that the issue had been extensively canvassed already.

Mr Barr's response to the auditors findings in September last year was to announce the splitting of the Land Development Agency into two.

The details of the split, which is to take effect in July this year, are yet to be announced.

But Mr Barr has said he plans one new agency to look after the Northbourne Avenue corridor and other major city projects, including City to the Lake, and a second agency to look after the development of new suburbs. They will have separate boards.

  • The audit report