The chief executive of the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) has agreed to take time off until an investigation into the latest in a series of controversial consultancy deals is completed.
- CEO Leanne Cover has been ordered to take time off until an internal CIT investigation into a $5 million consulting deal is complete
- The ACT Integrity Commission has announced it will investigate a number of previous contracts awarded to companies also owned by the same man
- The contracts have already been suspended
Earlier this month, the ABC revealed that since 2018, CIT had awarded four contracts, worth almost $8.5 million, to two companies, Think Garden and Redrouge Nominees Pty Ltd, both owned by mountaineer Patrick Hollingworth.
The latest contract, signed with Think Garden in March, was for $5 million and is subject to an internal audit commissioned by CIT’s board of directors.
On Thursday night it was revealed that CEO Leanne Cover, who has been undertaking the procurement processes for all contracts, has been asked to take time off until the independent investigation is complete.
In a statement, CIT Chairman Craig Sloan said Ms Cover had agreed to step down temporarily and the board would also conduct a performance review of the CEO.
The contracts were suspended last week after it was revealed that CIT had ignored several warnings from government officials.
ACT Integrity Commission to investigate four CIT contracts
Earlier Thursday afternoon, the ACT Integrity Commission announced it would investigate four contracts awarded by CIT to Mr Hollingworth’s companies.
This is the first time since its inception that the ACT Integrity Commission publicly confirms a decision to investigate a matter. But Integrity Commissioner Michael Adams said that would not become common practice.
“This minimizes the risk that the investigation, and even the safety and reputation of witnesses and other persons of interest, will be compromised.
“Public announcements regarding investigations will only be made if there are substantial reasons to do so.”
Commissioner Adams said that in this case the recent discussion of the contracts in the media and the ACT Legislative Assembly had made the announcement of the Integrity Commission’s decision to investigate “desirable”.
“It also provides the opportunity to ask any person or entity with information relating to the commission’s investigation report to provide their information to the commission as soon as possible,” he said.
Decision welcomed by the government and the opposition
The Integrity Commission’s decision to investigate the series of contracts was welcomed by ACT Skills Minister Chris Steel, Canberra Liberals and ACT Greens.
Mr Steel had previously written to the chairman of the CIT board expressing his concerns about the contracts and asking the board to explain what the jargon used in the tenders actually meant.
“We really welcome these independent reviews on these issues, which will get to the bottom of what happened and whether these contracts are value for money, what they will deliver and why they were undertaken” , did he declare.
Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said she hoped the inquiry would lead to an outcome “in the best interest of staff, students and CIT in the future”.
“Many Canberrans are rightly concerned about these contracts, and I welcome the Integrity Commissioner’s decision to launch an inquiry into this matter,” she said.
“It’s really important that governments have an independent oversight function, which is exactly why the Greens have campaigned for so long for an integrity commission and it’s good to see it in action.”
The ABC has contacted Mr. Hollingworth for comment on several occasions. He did not answer.
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