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Integrity questions should be investigated

Member for Western Victoria, Simon Ramsay, has raised concerns about conflicts of interest in Local Government, including potential conflicts involving the City of Greater Geelong (COGG).

Mr Ramsay queried the matter at the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) Integrity Forum in Geelong last week.

“The City of Greater Geelong finds itself competing in a public space against private developers.

“On the face of it, this may seem okay.  But when the Council is also the approval authority, then the waters can get murky,” Mr Ramsay said.

Mr Ramsay raised the example of the Geelong Ring Road Employment Precinct (GREP).

“Here you have a situation where private companies – such as Bisinella – have land holdings and plans for development.

“Right next to them is land owned by the City of Greater Geelong.  Both parties want to invest, develop, go to market and create jobs.

“In this scenario, the Council has veto over its own plans and approvals and can do this in a timely fashion.  This process can be done at the demise of the private operators.

“The private sector is at the mercy of its competitor – the Council.

“The Council can delay the company’s approval process, obstruct requests for information, set higher benchmarks, request more information, and ultimately – deny approval.  And all this can take years.”

Mr Ramsay said it raises questions about conflict of interest.  He has asked the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate to consider the matter.

He said Bisinella continues to argue that the Council has failed to create even one it’s proposed 10,000 jobs at the industrial precinct, despite spending $10 million of ratepayers money.

“At the same time, Council has seemingly disrupted the plans of a private operator – in this case a competitor – to also develop, invest at the site, and create jobs.

“There may be many examples of this issue across the state.

“Conflicts of interest must be avoided – especially when jobs, progress and public money is involved.”

“Integrity is the key word, and it’s time to question whether it exists in some aspects of local government.”