NT corruption body investigating $10 million agency loan

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday August 16, 2019

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

The Northern Territory’s Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating an axed agency’s decision to loan $10.5 million to a struggling water bottling company.

The NT’s Infrastructure Development Fund invested in NT Beverages in February 2018. The company has since been liquidated, raising questions about IDF’s judgement when the company had financial problems.

Senior public servant Jodie Ryan, former Infrastructure Capital Group executive director Les Fallick, Paspaley Pearls CEO James Paspaley, former Macquarie Bank boss Bill Moss and former Future Fund managing director Mark Burgess were all members of the IDF board.

The IDF has since been terminated after it had failed to attract any private investment and only made one investment — to NT Beverages.

The ICAC Commissioner, Ken Fleming, said the matter was being treated as a priority.

“The Akuna water issue, the investment corporation, $10 million of public funds, obviously we are very interested in that,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

“Just what we will do about it yet, we can’t say.”

Independent Member for Araluen, Robyn Lambley, referred the issue to the Auditor General last month, before it was taken to ICAC.

“Territorians want to know what was the level of due diligence that was followed?” Lambley said.

“What was the business case that convinced the decision-makers to invest in NT Beverages, particularly given it eventually went into voluntary administration?”

ICAC has received 318 reports of corruption since its establishment in November, according to Fleming, who is the body’s first commissioner.

He said he would be asking the government for more funding for his office of 14 full-time staff, despite the government having initiated a staffing cap.

However, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he would take such a request seriously.

The corruption agency is also on the hunt for a new investigations manager following the resignation of Allan Borg in June. He had previously served as chief investigation officer at the NT public interest disclosure commissioner.

READ MORE: New ICAC, old problem: NT corruption watchdog at full capacity after just 100 days

Fleming has previously stated that ICAC received more than 100 reports alleging serious misconduct in its first 100 days of operation, that had the new office already working at its full capacity.

“It is clear to me, from the reports made to my office and matters which I have looked into, that public administration in the Northern Territory is as susceptible to corruption as any jurisdiction,” he said.

“I have received reports of ­serious corruption, and I intend to investigate these matters to the full extent of my powers to bring those responsible to ­account.”

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