The Land Development Agency's purchases of farmland around the fringes of the city will be investigated by Auditor-General Maxine Cooper, the auditor announced on Wednesday.
The agency spent more than $20 million buying farms in the 2015-16 year alone.
Dr Cooper said the audit would examine why the ACT government was seeking to assemble rural land, how it was doing it and what had happened since 2012, and how effective the purchases had been.
The Land Development Agency recently tabled the prices it paid, after earlier refusing to say what it paid.
The 2015-16 purchases include:
- $10 million for the Huntly property in April 2016, in five separate blocks west of Belconnen
- $7 million in July 2015 for the 290 hectare Milapuru property west of Kambah
- $3.1 million in November 2015 for the 320 hectare Fairvale property, further west again
Late in 2016, the government also paid the Corkhill family $4.5 million for a large block in West Belconnen, for which the Corkhills paid $800,000 in 2004. That purchase was part of a joint venture deal in which the Corkhill family is splitting costs and profits 60;40 with the ACT government for the development of up to 11,500 homes.
Agency chief executive David Dawes has described the purchases as "long-term strategic acquisitions to enable potential for further supply of urban capable land", but hasn't disclosed whether any more farm blocks are in line for purchase, saying "any ongoing considerations" are commercial in confidence.
This is the second audit faced by the Land Development Agency in a year, with an explosive report from Dr Cooper released last year detailing a series of failings in the agency's purchases of land in the city and on the lakefront.
On Thursday, the ACT parliament debates a host of amendments to the government's legislation setting up two new agencies that will replace the Land Development Agency from July.