Liberal Member of the Legislative Council Rob Lucas said today that stunning evidence to a Parliamentary Inquiry by senior Land Management Corporation (LMC) executives had now created major problems for Minister Conlon.
A hearing of the Legislative Council’s Statutory Authorities Review Committee was told by Mr Wayne Gibbings, Chief Executive of the LMC, that it wasn’t until early this year Mr Conlon had resolved the Auditor General’s concerns about his failure to delegate his authority properly to LMC officers.
“Mr Conlon made it clear to the Committee it was the Minister’s responsibility to ensure this was done,” Mr Lucas said.
“Mr Gibbings indicated they would get legal advice as to whether the Minister’s actions raised any questions such as whether LMC executives had made decisions or signed contracts which they had not been authorised by the Minister to undertake.
“If the legal advice confirms this, then there will be potentially significant legal implications and Minister Conlon would have to be sacked by the Premier.”
Mr Lucas said it was also now clear that the Minister’s claims in Parliament that his legal advice stated the LMC, under the terms of the Project Development Agreement “owed an obligation” or “were obliged to” give this disputed contract (Remediation Project Manager) to Newport Quays was wrong. In fact, the Auditor General makes it clear the Government’s legal advice did not state that, but rather it said the Project Development Agreement was “silent” on the issue.
Other evidence included:
• Confirmation that the LMC was exposed to $37 million towards remediation of land costs, which should be compared to the Minister’s claim in Parliament that “the development agreement imposed major risks on the developer in terms of remediation.”
• LMC executives admitted making an error in not getting written legal advice on this major issue and not taking any notes on the oral advice they received from their lawyers.
• When Mr Conlon made the critical decision in December 2006 he did not require the LMC to provide copies of written legal advice.
• LMC executives admitted making an error in not resolving potential conflicts of interest issues when a Director of the developer and an employee of the consortium were allowed to stay on the Remediation sub-Committee which was critical to the process.
“It is no wonder the Auditor General has been so scathing of this process as some parts of the process seemed to have come from a script for an episode of the Keystone Cops,” Mr Lucas said.
“Ultimately, Mr Conlon has to accept responsibility for this mess.”
The SARC has directed the LMC to provide copies of all documents to the Committee and has directed the LMC executives to give further evidence early next month.