11/12/2014 - 15:06

Amcom link sank Nalder

11/12/2014 - 15:06

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After two weeks of controversy over Transport Minister Dean Nalder’s “perceived” conflicts of interest, a government report released today made it clear why Premier Colin Barnett stripped Mr Nalder of the finance ministry.

Amcom link sank Nalder
Western Australian Transport Minister Dean Nalder. Photo: Attila Csaszar

After two weeks of controversy over Transport Minister Dean Nalder’s “perceived” conflicts of interest, a government report released today made it clear why Premier Colin Barnett stripped Mr Nalder of the finance ministry.

Mr Barnett announced on Monday that Mr Nalder would retain the transport portfolio but would stand aside as finance minister because of hitherto unknown links to the IT industry.

Today’s report has disclosed that Mr Nalder had an “actual conflict of interest” because of his relationship with Alan Ariti, the group executive information systems at listed ICT company Amcom.

The report, completed last week by Department of Premier & Cabinet director general Peter Conran, said Mr Nalder and Mr Ariti were personal friends and co-investors in several companies.

“This situation does represent an actual conflict of interest, given the minister’s responsibilities for government ICT policy and procurement,” the report said.

The report disclosed that Mr Nalder hosted a “personal luncheon” at the Weld Club earlier this year, which included Mr Ariti and a Finance Department officer who was also the minister’s first cousin.

The meeting included a “high level discussion of IT issues” and was designed as an informal way to seek Mr Ariti’s views on ICT reform in government.

“While it is appreciated that the minister was seeking advice from a credible industry source to help form a better strategy for government, the minister again failed to identify the potential conflict that could arise from any decisions he may have subsequently made and the benefits that may have flowed to Mr Ariti’s company,” the report said.

“This represents an error of judgement and a failure to understand the minister’s obligations.”

The report said that inviting the minister’s first cousin to the meeting was also an error of judgement.

“The officer took no further part in the ICT reform strategy discussions that followed as he was not the appropriate departmental officer to be involved,” it said.

Labor’s government accountability spokesperson, Rita Saffioti, said the report revealed Mr Nalder breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct on at least five separate occasions, including an actual conflict of interest.

“Anyone who reads this report will tell you that this minister must be sacked today," Ms Saffioti said.

“Again and again Mr Nalder mixed his own personal business interests with his responsibility as a cabinet minister.

Colin Barnett has been weak on this matter, he either has no standards for his cabinet or he hasn’t read the report.’’

Mr Nalder claimed today he was the victim of a smear campaign and that a series of claimed leaks to the media were an attempt to tarnish his reputation.

He told reporters he didn't know who was behind the campaign but described it as "one of the hardest things" he'd ever gone through next to the death of his father.

The minister acknowledged mistakes, but said the report cleared his name.

“Those mistakes are around the creation of a perception that I might have done something wrong, rather than actually doing something wrong,” Mr Nalder said.

The 48 year old first came under fire for holding a stake in a company that leases cars to public servants through salary packaging arrangements.

He again made headlines when it emerged his office had nominated Darryl Ashworth, the founder of property company Metier Asia - in which Mr Nalder had invested $400,000 - to attend a meeting with the Chinese consul-general.

Senior government department heads, along with one of Mr Nalder's personal staff - who is also an investor in Metier Asia - also attended the meeting.

"Despite earlier suggestions by the minsiter that the meetings were private, he has now confirmed the meetings were in his capacity as minister but of an informal nature," today's report said. 

"The minister failed to identify a key concept underpinning the ministerial code of conduct; that his actions as a minister should always be, and always be seen to be, directed towards the public interest and not any private interest, regardless of the nature of the private interest."

Mr Conran's report said Mr Nalder had failed to fully disclose all of his business interests, including his relationships with the directors of companies he was involved with.

"This certainly hampered my and this department's ability to provide advice to the minister on managing his conflicts of interest," he said in the report.

 

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