Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas said today that if the Rann Government’s defence of a $5 million ‘loan’ from Minister Weatherill’s former department to Minister Hill’s department was to be believed it would make a great ‘keystone cops’ comedy script.
Last year’s Auditor-General’s report made significant criticisms of a $5 million ‘loan’ from Minister Weatherill’s Department for Administrative and Information Services (DAIS) to Minister Hill’s Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation (DWLBC) and last week a Legislative Council Select Committee took evidence from a public servant involved in the deal.
The Select Committee was told:
• a middle level public servant in one department (DWLBC) at the end of the financial year thought they might go into overdraft so rather than talk to Treasury organised a $5 million ‘loan’ from another middle level public servant in another department (DAIS)
• the ‘loan’ didn’t involve a written and signed contract but involved an email exchange between the two public servants
• the ‘loan’ was meant to be paid to DWLBC before the end of the financial year (30 June) but a ‘processing error’ meant it was mistakenly transferred at the start of the next financial year (1July)
• the ‘loan’ was meant to be repaid by mid July but DAIS ‘forgot’ to get the repayment
• DWLBC also ‘forgot’ about the ‘loan’ and the obligation to repay the loan by mid July
• when the ‘loan’ was eventually repaid two months late in September DAIS ‘forgot’ to collect the interest on the loan which had been agreed to be paid
• DAIS had only one person in an internal audit position at the time and internal audit was rarely seen
• that none of Ministers Hill and Weatherill, both CEOs or anyone at the top of either department supposedly knew anything about the $5 million ‘loan’
The Select Committee was also told that the Rann Government’s financial controls were such that the public servant could have ‘loaned’ $100 million rather than the $5 million!
Whilst this deal does have all the essential elements for a comedy script it is really a tragic condemnation of Mr.Rann and Mr. Foley’s slack financial controls that this could have been allowed to occur.
Finally the public servant who ‘loaned’ the $5 million was ‘counselled’ and had a ‘note placed on her file’ and is now in charge of corporate services in another department!