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Whistleblower threatened

The ACT Government is again accused of defying the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and failing to produce documents it tried to keep hidden in the case of a public service whistleblower.

Government lawyers are now threatening to sue the woman at the centre of the matter, former bureaucrat Debbie Scattergood, if she publicly releases any more information about her case.

The Department of Territory and Municipal Services, threatened with contempt proceedings last week for not complying with the tribunal's orders, has failed to produce the documents as ordered by tribunal senior member Louise Donohoe, SC.

The papers are reports into the mistreatment of Ms Scattergood, a former TAMS bureaucrat, after she blew the whistle on waste and mismanagement in the running of a lawn-mowing contract worth $16million.

The four-year fight, which has left Ms Scattergood physically ill and facing mounting legal bills, which currently stand at more than $22,000, incurred in the struggle to clear her name, came to a head in the tribunal last week.

After TAMS produced heavily redacted versions of two reports in ''purported compliance'' of Ms Donohoe's orders, the senior barrister said the Government, which sees itself as a ''model litigant'', could be in contempt and again ordered the production of the papers, allowing only a minimal amount of redaction.


Now the latest versions of the two reports into the affair, produced by consultant Henry Price, have been supplied to Ms Scattergood's lawyers with vast swaths of text still blanked out.

Government lawyers say they are trying to protect the identity of former and present TAMS workers potentially implicated in the reports who have not had a chance to defend themselves or who deny the allegations against them.

In a covering letter the ACT Government Solicitor foreshadows a plea to Ms Donohoe to reconsider when the tribunal sits again next week and carries a threat against the whistleblower of defamation action against her if she continues to supply documents to the media. But Ms Scattergood said she believed she was being threatened.

''This is intimidation,'' she said.

The whistleblower expressed frustration that, even after Ms Donohoe's warnings, material was still being withheld.

''There are large swaths [of the reports] blanked out and a lot of the findings they were asked to produce are also blanked out so you can't really say that they've complied,'' Ms Scattergood said.

''Even in the face of contempt finding, they are still trying to hide this material.''

But a spokeswoman from the Chief Minister's office said, ''The Government has indicated it would not oppose Ms Scattergood's legal costs incurred during ACAT [ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal] proceedings.

''As the matter is still before the tribunal, costs are yet to be finalised.

''In addition, the Chief Minister has asked for a systems review by CMCD [Chief Minister's Directorate] of the response to Ms Scattergood's experience.''