Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
NT watchdog processes failed, court finds

The Northern Territory’s corruption watchdog’s processes failed during an investigation into a multi-million government grant, a Supreme Court review has found.

June 23, 2022

The Northern Territory’s corruption watchdog has been dealt a blow with the Supreme Court finding its processes failed during a high-profile investigation.

Ex-Darwin Turf Club board member Damien Moriarty asked the court for a judicial review into the conduct of the former commissioner against corruption Ken Fleming QC after he was found guilty of unsatisfactory conduct and breaching public trust.

The finding against Mr Moriarty was made in a 2021 report following an investigation into a $12 million NT government grant to build a multi-purpose grandstand at the Fannie Bay Race Course.

Justice Judith Kelly found that Mr Fleming did not give Mr Moriarty notice of his guilty finding or an adequate opportunity to respond to the report.

“The defendant failed to afford the plaintiff procedural fairness by failing to ensure that he was given notice of a proposal to make findings of unsatisfactory conduct and breach of public trust against him …,” Ms Kelly said in her judgement handed down on Thursday.

Mr Fleming’s report released in June 2021 also found corruption, misconduct and mismanagement of public resources at the racetrack in relation to the grandstand project.

The club’s board failed to declare and manage conflicts of interest, which resulted in the contract to build the grandstand being given to one of the chairman’s companies, the report said.

Former Chief Minister Michael Gunner publicly urged the turf club board to resign, saying the findings were appalling and civil action could be instigated against those who benefited from the grant.

The ICAC investigation took more than a year to complete and involved 54 directions not to disclose information, 34 notices to produce items or information and 28 examinations.

The report made 18 recommendations, relating to the governance of the turf club and associations, lobbying, ministerial and departmental policy, and grants policies and evaluation.

Mr Fleming retired from ICAC in July 2021 and returned to Queensland, saying he wanted to be closer to family.

He was appointed as the first NT ICAC commissioner in July 2018 and led the office through its establishment phase into operations.

The turf club’s former chairman Brett Dixon is also challenging the report, with a hearing scheduled for July.

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