The ACT’s corruption watchdog is close to releasing the first findings from its investigation into $8.5 million of consultancy contracts awarded to “complexity and systems thinker” Patrick Hollingworth by the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT).
On Monday (13 November), Integrity Commissioner Michael Adams KC informed a Legislative Assembly committee examining the commission’s annual report that a special report has been provided to parties required by law to have the opportunity to comment on the findings.
Under the Integrity Commission Act 2018, individuals and entities to which the investigation relates must be given a copy of the proposed report and have six weeks to comment on its findings. The commissioner must consider any comments and amendments made if appropriate.
About 35 people have received the interim report.
“It’s a big list,” Mr Adams told the Assembly.
“It has to remain confidential for obvious reasons because the findings must necessarily remain tentative until procedural fairness is completed. It’s a report of over 200 pages and it has over 2500 documents attached to it, pages of documents, pages of material attached to it, so it’s a big task. I’m hoping six weeks is long enough.
“The issues, as you can appreciate just from the general publicity, are substantial.”
The investigation, codenamed Operation Luna, is intended to determine whether the conduct of certain CIT public officials amounts to corrupt conduct and/or serious or systemic corrupt conduct.
Over a five-year period, over $8.5 million was given to companies ThinkGarden and Redrouge Nominees Pty Ltd, owned by “complexity and systems thinker” Patrick Hollingworth for services including mentoring and organisational transformation.
The last and largest of those contracts was worth $4.99 million and was signed in March 2022, four months after the Integrity Commission first received a complaint.
The Integrity Commission has clarified that the report only covers some aspects of the investigation’s findings, and there will be more to come.
“This proposed report covers only a certain aspect of the commission’s investigation and does not signal the conclusion of Operation Luna in its entirety,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Adams told the Assembly that the special report will focus on one particular area of concern.
“As we went through the material with our general investigation, having in mind where it would go, it became clear that a particular area could be focused on and could hopefully be the subject of a report before the much lengthier process of looking at all the material,” he said.
“So it enabled me then by focusing on that at least to get this particular work completed early.
“There’s already been a great deal of work on the wider investigation, but much work still has to be done in that area,” Mr Adams explained.
The commission’s 2022-23 annual report revealed that it had made “significant headway” in its investigations over the past 12 months, including Operation Luna.
As of June 2022, it had conducted private examinations of 24 people and a voluntary interview with one person as part of the investigation. The commission also conducted forensic examinations of three mobile phones and issued summonses for the review of materials produced by numerous government and private sector organisations.
In March 2023, Region reported that CIT CEO Leanne Cover had been stood down on paid leave from her $318,000-a-year job for “the duration of the inquiries and investigations”.
Asked whether the findings of the first report would affect Ms Cover’s position, Mr Adams did not want to comment.
“I don’t think I should disclose that one way or another, I’m afraid,” he said.