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You are here: Home News and media CCC media releases CCC finalises Lockyer Valley Regional Council investigation - 31 March 2016
You are here: Home News and media CCC media releases CCC finalises Lockyer Valley Regional Council investigation - 31 March 2016
You are here: Home News and media CCC media releases CCC finalises Lockyer Valley Regional Council investigation - 31 March 2016

CCC finalises Lockyer Valley Regional Council investigation - 31 March 2016

The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has finalised its investigation into corruption allegations against members of the Lockyer Valley Regional Council (LVRC), including the late Mayor Steve Jones and determined the matter will not be further investigated.

In the case of elected officials, the CCC is limited to investigating corrupt conduct that involves the commission of a criminal offence. On the information provided, the CCC is satisfied with the probity measures in place for the Strengthening Grantham Project land swap program and has determined that the available information does not raise a reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct by the then Mayor or any LVRC employee.

The Strengthening Grantham Project was a Council initiative directed at rebuilding the town of Grantham following the January 2011 floods. The policy allowed flood-affected properties within the Council area to be swapped for council-owned property at the new Grantham site. The Grantham Land Offer Policy was developed to manage the land offer program.

On 20 April 2015 the CCC received a complaint alleging the LVRC had engaged in corruption by swapping vacant land at Mount Sylvia for blocks of land at the new Grantham site, outside of the eligibility guidelines for the Strengthening Grantham Project, in circumstances which benefitted associates of Mayor Jones.

When the CCC receives a complaint it first assesses the matter to determine whether it is in the CCC’s jurisdiction and, if so, whether a CCC investigation is warranted. The complaint was originally assessed as not warranting further action by the CCC. This assessment relied primarily on the fact that the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) had conducted extensive auditing of the project and had not raised any issues of corrupt conduct. However, an internal CCC review of the matter determined that it was relevant to note that the QAO had flagged questions that were at the core of the complainant’s concerns — that is, whether a land swap was provided to a business and whether businesses were eligible for the land swap if there was no house involved. On 9 October 2015 the CCC resolved to refer the matter for investigation.

In the course of its investigation the CCC considered information provided by the LVRC, the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning (DILGP), Queensland Reconstruction Authority, Queensland Audit Office (QAO), and the Department of Natural Resources and Mines. The CCC also conducted interviews with the complainant and Council staff, including the Chief Executive Officer, and the Strengthening Grantham Project Executive Policy Advisor and its former Project Coordinator.

The DILGP advised the CCC that in total there were four flood events from 2011 to 2013, which led to an extension of time for the Strengthening Grantham Project and the expansion of eligible land to locations outside of Grantham but within Council boundaries. Following flooding at Black Duck Creek in 2013, the Mount Sylvia area was included in the Council area that could be swapped under the land offer program.

The Grantham Land Offer Policy was eventually retitled the Lockyer Valley Land Offer Policy. As local government councils are only permitted to sell land by tender or auction, each time the policy was amended it required, and received, Ministerial approval.

The LVRC explained that the overriding premise behind the land offer was community safety and that the LVRC did not want people living or building on flood-affected land. The first ballot for the new blocks was held in August 2011. It was managed by an external consultancy firm specialising in development projects, with no involvement by the LVRC.

Throughout all programs, applicants were required to complete a participation deed outlining their eligibility to participate; if assigned a block of land they were given contracts for the sale of their property and for the purchase of the LVRC land.

All of the contracts of sale were prepared and executed by an independent legal firm on behalf of the LVRC. The swapping of vacant land comprised nearly 23 per cent of all swapped allotments and was approved under the CEO’s delegated authority.

While the majority of these properties were uncontentious, six blocks were outside the original mapped zones but still within LVRC boundaries. All vacant land swapped by the alleged associates of the mayor was subject to the above independent process and accordingly the CCC concluded that there was no reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct.

Regrettably this is another example of an allegation of corrupt conduct being made public before the CCC has had the opportunity to assess the matter and determine whether there was any merit in investigating the allegation. As the CCC stated at the commencement of the local government election period, it is best if people bring their complaints to the CCC confidentially.

Last updated: 26 July 2016

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