Another “potentially corrupt” land deal emerges

Recently the federal government attracted widespread scrutiny over its controversial Leppington Triangle land deal.

The 2018 purchase of the 12.3 hectare block of land, which was part of the construction of the new Western Sydney Airport, led to an investigation by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) after the land was valued at just $3 million 12 months after it was purchased for $30 million.

The ANAO described the Leppington Triangle land purchase as a “significant and unusual transaction” that “did not exercise appropriate due diligence” and “fell short of ethical standards”.

Geoffrey Watson – director of the Centre of Public Integrity – also claimed the land purchase was either the result of “gross incompetence or corruption”.

According to The Guardian, the NSW Government is now being investigated for a similar “potentially corrupt” land purchase, which has prompted the NSW auditor general to investigate 20 land deals completed between 1 November 2019 and 30 October 2020:

A NSW parliamentary inquiry is currently probing the state government’s purchase of a contaminated block of land in the Sydney suburb of Camellia for $53.5m, just months after it was purchased at a fraction of the cost by property developer Billbergia.

The land is to be used for a depot for the Parramatta light rail project, but the state government did not bother obtaining a valuation or an estimate of the clean-up costs prior to its purchase…

The NSW auditor general last month issued a scathing assessment of the purchase, saying it was “unable to exclude the possibility that the transaction was affected by misconduct or corruption”…

The inquiry heard that, following concerns about the Camellia site, the agency launched a separate audit into other residential and commercial property acquisitions between 1 November 2019 and 30 October 2020.

The audit examined 20 acquisitions involving Transport for NSW. A draft report was being finalised late last month and will be handed to transport minister Andrew Constance.

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is now investigating the Camellia land deal, which has been welcomed by Transport for NSW secretary Rob Sharp:

“I support the investigation by Icac, which I believe can ensure the matters can be finally resolved,” Transport for NSW secretary Rob Sharp told the inquiry.

The above highlights the gaping hole in the federal government’s procurement processes. ICAC bodies exist across the states but are absent for the federal government.

Why does the federal government avoid similar scrutiny for its purchases?

Unconventional Economist

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