The Australian auditor-general said the land deal with the Leppington Triangle was the first he alerted the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in his five years.
- An appraisal a year after the property was purchased found it was worth only $ 3 million
- The Auditor-General referred the deal to AFP after discovering information “suggesting the Commonwealth may have been betrayed”.
- A spokesman for the Leppington Pastoral Company said they would work together on any investigation
The Commonwealth paid $ 29.8 million in mid-2018 for the 12-acre property near Western Sydney Airport.
An assessment a year later found the value to be only $ 3 million, and a report from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) showed how the Commonwealth handled the business.
The AFP confirmed last week that it is investigating possible “criminal offenses” related to the sale.
Ahead of the Senate’s estimates, Auditor General Grant Hehir said Monday evening that this was the first time he had contacted AFP about an audit.
“We concluded that there was information we could not explain that suggested the Commonwealth may have been betrayed,” he said.
“I thought it would be in the public interest for me to provide information to the AFP commissioner.”
Mr Hehir said he contacted the AFP commissioner for the first time on July 10 and followed up in writing three days later, two months before the audit report was published.
“I felt that under the circumstances, the best course of action was to make this audit evidence available to an investigative body – the AFP – to review and make its own decision.”
The appraiser never entered the property
The audit had raised concerns as to why there was only an evaluation of the property prior to sale and why this work was being carried out by a Leppington Pastoral Company proposed appraiser who then owned the property.
Brian Boyd, executive director of ANAO, told Senate Estimates the appraiser never went to the property.
“The appraiser was not allowed to make the inquiries that are normally expected from an appraiser,” he said.
“They weren’t allowed to enter the country, they were actually taking a ride that they weren’t supposed to, but they were doing it.
“They had a very wide range of about $ 4 million to $ 5 million between the top and bottom – the department used a center point like it had something scientific that it really wasn’t.”
Mr. Boyd added that the appraiser objected to the department’s instructions.
Shadow Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said the opposition will press for all investigations to be made public.
“I think it is very important that the Australian Federal Police investigation is carried out. We will continue to pursue what we can through Senate estimates, but also through other parts of Parliament. But I think it is very important that all investigations are made public. “
In a statement, a spokesman for the Leppington Pastoral Company said they would cooperate fully with any investigation.
“The Leppington Pastoral Company has acted appropriately at all times in relation to this real estate transaction,” they said.
Earlier Monday it was announced that two employees from the Ministry’s Western Sydney division had been investigated – one switched to a different role and the other resigned.
Infrastructure Secretary Simon Atkinson told a Senate committee he had serious concerns about the way the business was going and wanted to “clean it up.”
He said he had commissioned three internal investigations.
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