SEEKING ANSWERS: Les Williams.
SEEKING ANSWERS: Les Williams. Brett Wortman

Corruption watchdog eyes QR contract transfer

THE decision by Queensland Rail to transfer eight contracts worth $20m held by Walton Queensland to the alleged phoenix company Peloton on the strength of a phone call three days before the builder went into administration has been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

The move comes after examination by Queensland Integrity Commissioner Richard Bingham of evidence presented to him by Subcontractors Alliance head Les Williams in early December which included Walton project financial reporting files.

Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe in November had referred the matter to Mr Bingham for review.

 

Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe.
Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe.

A State Government spokesman said it could not comment further now the matter was before the CCC.

"The CCC has extensive investigative powers, including the power to compel witnesses, and can refer matters to other authorities as it sees fit," he said.

In 2014 former Queensland Rail CEO Helen Gluer told the Sunshine Coast Daily the transfer of the contracts had been the subject of an internal review which found the government department had acted in "good faith". Ms Gluer was appointed to her role after the contract transfers took place.

 One contract in particular relating to work done on the Cleveland Station had been 100% completed by Walton Qld before it was transferred to Peloton along with seven others Walton held with QR.

Mr Williams wants to know who was paid for the work and by whom.

Walton Queensland went into administration on October 3, 2013, and subsequently liquidation. Total company debt including that of parent company Walton Constructions is in excess of $70 million.

In a letter to Speaker of the House and Nicklin MP Peter Wellington, Mr Bingham said it would be a matter for the CCC to assess the concerns and determine what if any further action is warranted.

"No doubt it will have regard to the strength of any evidence which Mr Williams is able to provide, but in my view the submission which he has provided to you outlines credible prima facie evidence in this context," Mr Bingham wrote.

"Having considered Mr Williams' submission, I believe that the concerns which he raises in relation to QR's role in the transfer of the Cleveland railway station contract warrant investigation.

"It is conceivable that there are other matters relating to other contracts to which Waltons was a party which may also warrant examination by relevant authorities, but I have not considered those.

"The conduct of such an investigation is not within the jurisdiction of my office. Nor do I have the investigative powers to utilise in considering this matter, and in view of the background I consider these would be desirable. Consequently, in my view the proper course is for Mr Williams or you to report the concerns to the Crime and Corruption Commission."

Mr Wellington has subsequently written to CCC chair, AJ MacSporran QC, formally requesting an investigation into "the behaviour of senior Queensland Rail bureaucrats in relation to the transfer of the Queensland Rail contract from Walton Construction Qld Pty Ltd to Peloton Builders Pty Ltd".

 

Queensland Speaker of the House, independent Nicklin MP Peter Wellington.
Queensland Speaker of the House, independent Nicklin MP Peter Wellington. DAN PELED

 

He said he was now waiting on the outcome of a preliminary assessment into the matter adding significant documentation had been provided to the CCC for that purpose.

"More questions need to be asked."

Mr Williams remains deeply concerned about the structure of the Walton collapse.

He believes there may be millions of dollars that remain payable to the liquidation which would held satisfy sub contractors for work done and material supplied to Walton projects.

It became the central subject of the 2015 Senate Inquiry into Construction Industry Insolvency which made more than 40 recommendations including the use of project bank accounts.

The federal government has still to respond to the inquiry however the Queensland Government has announced wide ranging reform to the sector.



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