THE time for obstruction and obfuscation is over – Wagga council must immediately release an external auditor’s report into the Douglas Aerospace loan fiasco.
That there’s a public interest in council doing so is undeniable. The chronology of events leading up to the loan raises questions that strike to the very heart of public accountability.
On December 23, 2011, buried in the silly season rush, the proposal to loan $2.5 million of ratepayer money to Douglas Aerospace was placed on 28 days of public exhibition.
This was despite councillors not having seen a “smoking gun” report by Kingsway Financial Assessments, which rated Douglas 19 out of 100 on their ability to service the loan.
Councillors subsequently signed off on the loan without having seen that critical piece of information.
The rest is history. Douglas Aerospace fell into voluntary administration earlier this year and defaulted on the loan. An internal auditor’s report was commissioned, which reportedly raised so many questions it necessitated an external auditor’s report.
The external auditor’s report was so explosive, according to some councillors, it was a catalyst for the forced resignation of council GM Phil Pinyon, the city’s most senior public official.
It’s not hard to see the public interest in releasing a report into how public money was potentially compromised by public servants and politicians.
Council has a moral, ethical and, some would say, legal obligation to release this report and help unravel the unholy mess.
Governments love to invoke the “commercial in confidence” clause whenever it suits them. But it simply doesn’t wash in this case.
Ratepayers don’t want to know the commercial secrets of a struggling aviation company. They want to know why council made such a catastrophic mistake.
The questions are clear.
Why weren’t our elected representatives given all possible information when assessing the loan? What other senior council staff were responsible for undertaking due diligence on the loan?
We demand answers. We demand to see the report.
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