The troubled Land Development Agency was "a very difficult place to work" in the period before it was wound up, according to a former official.
The agency's former sales, marketing and land management director, John Mason, said staff were heavily controlled - to the point where it became "really silly" - after the Auditor-General began probing its dealings.
The Auditor-General had published a scathing audit of the agency's land deals at Glebe Park and Lake Burley Griffin, and was investigating the purchase of various parcels of rural land west of Canberra, at the time it was officially shut down in mid-2017.
"With all the investigations that were happening ... it became very difficult to do anything," Mr Mason said.
"We weren't able to have a cup of coffee with an agent or valuer. It just became really silly and it was very difficult to get things done efficiently because all of the processes had been tightened up."
Mr Mason made the comments during evidence on Wednesday to the ACT Legislative Assembly's inquiry into the now-defunct agency's rural land purchases between 2014 and 2017.
The final Auditor-General's report condemned the agency's handling of the deals, highlighting insufficient record keeping and a lack of transparency and accountability in arrangements with real estate agents and valuers among its findings.
After hearing Mr Mason describe the restrictions placed staff in the agency's dying days, inquiry chair Vicki Dunne questioned if it was "reasonable to say that it went from no processes to over processed?".
Mr Mason challenged that assessment, insisting that proper process was followed in work he was involved in.
That assurance came despite Mr Mason struggling to recall key details surrounding a near $300,000 payment to real estate firm Colliers International. The Auditor-General found the payment, which stemmed from Colliers' unsolicited proposal to the government on potential rural land purchases, was approved despite no records of a purchase order.
Mr Mason told Wednesday's hearing that he had been asked to process the payment, although he could not recall by whom.
He said the agency's then chief financial officer, Anita Hargreaves, had questioned him why the invoice did not have a purchase order on it. He recalled telling Ms Hargreaves that he knew nothing about Colliers' work, but had been asked to process the invoice, so he did.
Ms Hargreaves has previously admitted that signing off on the invoice was an "oversight".
Mrs Dunne's committee also probed Mr Mason on the agency's handling of a contract with real estate firm CBRE to sublease the Huntly property. The audit report found the decision to procure CBRE's service was "poorly justified" and the "conduct of the process was poor".
The agency paid CBRE $151,000, despite ACT Property Group estimating the fees at $47,000.
Mr Mason was involved in the process despite acknowledging that he had no experience in handling rural leases or commissions.
On Wednesday, Mr Mason told the inquiry that he had been concerned about the amount being paid to CBRE and had arranged a meeting with the firm in a bid to lower the agreed fee.
"We tried to lower it ... It didn't happen," he said.