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Cheque in the mail: ACT returns funds to Queensland amid CMC probe

Date

Peter Jean

The ACT Government has agreed to return most of a $400,000 payment from Queensland Health that has sparked a misconduct inquiry in the sunshine state.

But the Territory will not return about $130,000 of the payment that has already been spent on projects related to the National Mental Health Plan.

This week, the Queensland Government revealed two senior health bureaucrats had been suspended on full pay while allegations were referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

It has been reported that the allegations related to an unauthorised $400,000 payment to the ACT Government.

The ACT Health Directorate said the money was accepted in good faith from Queensland Health for the national mental health secretariat, which is maintained by the ACT Government.

In response to questions from The Canberra Times, a Health Directorate spokesman said last night the ACT had agreed to return funds to Queensland that had not already been spent on mental health projects.

“The ACT Health Directorate set up a special purpose account to ensure all funds within the account were transparently accounted for, and to keep these funds separate from ACT Government funded activities,’’ the spokesman said.

“If a jurisdiction provides funding for national mental health activity and the projected activities for which the funds were allocated has not proceeded, the funds are regarded as still belonging to that jurisdiction and are dealt with as that jurisdiction requires.’’

The ACT hosts the secretariat for the National Mental Health Standing Committee, which is overseeing the implementation of the fourth National Mental Health Plan.

Money that had already been spent on the projects would not be refunded.

The spokesman said Queensland Health staff had contacted an ACT Health Directorate official earlier this year to discuss the funds.

 “The ACT Health Directorate official informed the Queensland Health officials that the funds were held in a special purpose account, the purpose for which they were provided and the status of that activity,’’ the spokesman said.

A review had been conducted into the actions of the ACT Government.

 “The ACT Government has undertaken an internal review to make sure ACT Government procedures have been followed,’’ the spokesman said.

The comments came after Queensland Health director-general Tony O'Connell revealed he had stood down “two senior Queensland Health officers” following allegations of official misconduct.

“I take these matters very seriously and have referred this issue to the Crime and Misconduct Commission for thorough investigation,” he said in the statement.

“The officers in question have been suspended on full pay pending the outcome of the investigations.”

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the two "very senior" officers worked in the Queensland Health corporate office.

The spokeswoman said the allegations were reported by a third party in a "public interest disclosure" but she was unaware of the person's identity.

She said the matter was not related to the Barlow case.

Mr Barlow, a former Queensland Health employee who is also known as Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, faces charges relating to the alleged defrauding of Queensland Health of about $15 million.

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