Controversial CIT consultancy contracts to be investigated by ACT Integrity Commission
The ACT Integrity Commission is investigating a series of lucrative consulting contracts awarded by the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) to businesses owned by mountaineer and “complexity and systems thinker” Patrick Hollingworth.
- It is the first time the ACT Integrity Commission has publicly confirmed a decision to investigate a matter
- The contracts have already been suspended and the latest $5 million contract is also the subject of an internal CIT audit
- The Integrity Commission’s decision to investigate has been welcomed by ACT Skills Minister Chris Steel, the Canberra Liberals and the ACT Greens
Earlier this month, the ABC revealed that since 2018, CIT had awarded four contracts, worth almost $8.5 million, to two businesses, Think Garden and Redrouge Nominees Pty Ltd, both owned by Mr Hollingworth.
The latest contract, signed with Think Garden in March, was worth $5 million and is already the subject of an internal audit commissioned by the CIT board, which said it could not ensure that the contract “represented value for money”, without the review.
But, today, the ACT Integrity Commission announced it would also be investigating the circumstances surrounding the awarding of all four contracts.
It is the first time since its inception that the ACT Integrity Commission has publicly confirmed a decision to investigate a matter. But Integrity Commissioner Michael Adams said that would not become standard practice.
“This minimises the risk of the investigation, or indeed the safety and reputation of witnesses and other persons of interest, being compromised.
“Public announcements about investigations will only be made where there are substantial countervailing reasons for doing so.”
Commissioner Adams said, in this instance, recent discussion of the contracts in the media and ACT Legislative Assembly had made it “desirable” to announce the Integrity Commission’s decision to investigate.
“It also provides an opportunity to request any person or entity with information pertaining to the commission’s investigation report to provide their information to the commission as soon as possible,” he said.
Decision welcomed by government and opposition
The decision by the Integrity Commission to investigate the series of contracts was welcomed by ACT Skills Minister Chris Steel, the Canberra Liberals and the ACT Greens.
“We really welcome these independent reviews into these matters, which will get to the bottom of what’s occurred and whether these contracts are value for money, what they will deliver, and why they were undertaken,” he said.
Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said she hoped the investigation would result in an outcome that was “in the best interests of the staff, students and the CIT going forward”.
“Many Canberrans are rightly concerned about these contracts, and I welcome the Integrity Commissioner’s decision to undertake an investigation into this issue,” she said.
“It is really important for governments to have an independent oversight function, which is exactly why the Greens campaigned for so long for an Integrity Commission and it is good to see it in action.”
The ABC has contacted Mr Hollingworth for comment on many occasions. He has not responded.
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