Moreton Bay Industry and Tourism's Shane Newcombe with now suspended mayor Allan Sutherland.
Moreton Bay Industry and Tourism's Shane Newcombe with now suspended mayor Allan Sutherland.

Watchdog’s findings in council probe

THE Crime and Corruption Commission has not found sufficient evidence to prosecute over a controversial contract between Moreton Bay Council and its tourism body.

The CCC began a corruption investigation in August 2018 into allegations relating to the renewal of a service level agreement between the council and Moreton Bay Regional Industry and Tourism.

It also investigated whether several councillors, including now suspended mayor Allan Sutherland, did not disclose and manage conflicts of interests associated with MBRIT.

The CCC stated it did not find sufficient evidence to prosecute and would not investigate further.

However, it also found a practice of "informal meetings" of councillors prior to council meetings that were not minuted, and recommended these cease due to the lack of transparency.

The CCC also recommended additional training for councillors and some senior staff over declaring conflicts of interests, particularly when there is an insufficient number of councillors to reach a quorum on a matter before council.

"While no conduct identified during the investigation reached a criminal threshold, the CCC did identify a practice where on occasions informal meetings of elected officials occurred in private prior to council meetings," a CCC spokesman said.

"The CCC understands discussions or decisions at these meetings were not minuted or recorded."

The investigation found councillors complied with their obligations under section 175E of the Local Government Act 2009 to declare perceived and actual conflicts of interest, and the requirement to deal with these appropriately.

The investigation also identified some councillors and council staff were either unaware or uncertain about the MBRIT agreement, which is allowable under Part 2, Division 1, of the Local Government Act 2009.

The CCC's investigation found the confusion and lack of information about the process to renew the agreement created a level of uncertainty and anxiety which contributed to concerns about the process.

The CCC also recommended the council distribute an internal communique to councillors and staff when entering into a beneficial enterprise agreement to explain the process and to improve transparency.