FREMANTLE COUNCIL EXPOSED TO FRAUD AND CORRUPTION

AUDITOR’S REPORT STATES CITY HAS NO ANTI-CORRUPTION FRAMEWORK: SECRET MEETINGS ARE CAUSE FOR CONCERN

In an extensive report delivered to Fremantle Council the City’s auditors have revealed:

‘The City has no Fraud and Corruption Framework, there is no Fraud and Corruption Prevention Policy nor Procedures’.

The auditors, Paxon Group Pty Ltd, describe themselves as specialists in aspects of urban renewal, development feasibility and the structuring of joint ventures between public and private entities. 

 Paxon Group also reported that the City has no Fraud Prevention Officer.

The audit reveals:

‘Purchase orders have been raised after expenditure’ and ‘Invoices have not been approved by authorised personnel’.

Paxon’s note that issues related to the delegation of authority have “been actioned”.

WARNINGS GIVEN IN 2015  :  REQUIRED TRAINING NOT IMPLEMENTED

Paxon’s findings reveal the lack of Risk Management Analysis dates prior to 2015. They say that under a previous Regulation 17 report of 2015:

“ . . . risk analysis was new to the City and required further refinement and training scheduled for 2015. This did not take place”.

(Links to the auditor’s information published in Council’s agenda and minutes are at the end of this article)

COUNCILLORS MUST HAVE ACCESS TO CONTRACTS  :  MAY HAVE NO LEGAL PROTECTION.

Fremantle is increasingly favoured by developers and at least one, Sirona Capital, has been described in court documents as having questionable professional ethics.

If councillors did not receive advice related to aspects of fraud and corruption they may have a defense against future legal action associated with the financial failure of projects, especially if councillors have not been given full details of projects’ contracts. 

Fremantle Backchat understands councillors have not had access to contracts. Therefore they cannot understand the implications.

Not requesting access to contracts may indicate a lack of due diligence which could expose individuals to legal action in the event of financial or other failures of projects.

By understanding contracts fully, if necessary consulting independent legal advice, councillors would be in a position to question the administration and clarify any doubts they may have. Due diligence may help protect elected members from legal actions and advise the administration to refrain from imprudent management practices. They may also protect ratepayers from costly misinterpretations.

REQUEST FOR CONTRACT IGNORED  :  COUNCIL SECRECY IS CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Lack of transparency within the Council’s administration is palpable. The administrator’s findings cast doubt on past and current administrations and their procedures. The findings should prompt councillors to ensure legal protection which may be assisted by having a  full understanding. of contracts

Fremantle Backchat has written to the City’s CEO, Philip St John, requesting a copy of the contract between the City and Sirona Capital so that it may be independently examined in the interests of Fremantle ratepayers who are repeatedly described as partners with Sirona Capital in the redevelopment of King’s Square. He has not replied.

SECRET DISCUSSION OF  CASH FLOW BY AUDIT AND RISK MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE

Underlining the Council’s lack of transparency a meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee was held in camera to discuss the Kings Square Civic Building Cash Flow Summary. The meeting was on 14th May 2019. In some circumstances Government legislation does allow council business to be closed to the public. 

The council has recently contracted Pindan and concerns have been raised that the contract may not have a fixed price. That is not uncommon but ratepayers have been given details of costs which appear to be fixed.

If contracts are not fixed price there may be concerns that substantial increases in construction and fit-out costs can be expected.

Fremantle’s ratepayers who are financial partners in the development of  Kings Square should have considerable cause for concern that contracts and related financial matters which are shrouded in secrecy are not available for inspection.

NOTE: For detailed information related to the auditor’s report refer to these links:

Agenda:<https://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/Agenda%20-%20Ordinary%20Meeting%20of%20Council%20-%2022%20May%202019.pdf>Starting on pp95

Minutes:<https://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/Minutes%20-%20Ordinary%20Meeting%20of%20Council%20-%2022%20May%202019.pdf>Starting on pp111

Roger Garwood, Editor, Fremantle Backchat; <editorbackchat@gmail.com>

Loopers’ Attacks on Dowson Are Dangerous and Devisive

The Politest Description of Fremantle Society’s Former President Roel Loopers is ‘Enigmatic’. 

Even the most casual observer will have noted that he seems to change his mind with the wind, to blow hot and cold with the same breath.

Closer examination reveals he continually manipulates the truth about his experience and achievements.  For example it was only about two weeks ago that Loopers said he had been a Fremantle resident for 17 years. Now he says he has been living here for 22 years. Soon we’ll be told that he was born here.

His flippant attitude to facts and analysis can be noted from his recent attacks on John Dowson, referring to him as ‘the old guard of Fremantle Society’.

Many of the members of The Society have lived in Fremantle for decades longer than either Loopers or Dowson. John Dowson, an historian and lecturer, has a genuine passion for the city’s architecture as well as a deep seated knowledge of the history which accompanies the infrastructure – not only the buildings but the lifestyles which blended into the old city and latterly into the immediate suburbs.

Dowson, has been maligned by detractors who see him as pedantic and have successfully labelled him as anti-development. Those detractors are developers or the supporters of developers. That includes Roel Loopers.  Do they have a vested  interest in destroying Dowson’s reputation in his drive for high quality development? You bet they do.

When studying Dowson carefully he emerges as an avid supporter of development. Backed by his study of the city and its social and economic lifestyle, he strongly favours high quality, low rise structures. Most Fremantle people favour quality development of no more than six stories.  That belief is shared by two members of The Society’s committee who have resigned saying they  cannot work with Loopers. A third recently resigned but the reason is unknown.

 Dowson Want’s High Quality development. Looper’s Changed His Mind.

Loopers had been a great admirer of Dowson. Suddenly Loopers once more changed his mind. Why? There is no reason other than the fact he sees  an attack on Dowson as another feather in his cap among his, Loopers, supporters. Loopers will always, carefully,  go with the flow but Dowson has not flinched from his “high quality,  low rise” stance. Dowson, or for that matter, any other member of the committee (other than Loopers) is not driven by ego or vested self interest. It must be remembered that before joining The Society Loopers was an advocate of high rise developments. He posted pictures on his blog, admiring proposed concrete and glass boxes of ten plus stories.

The best thing that could emerge from a Dowson victory is that Loopers keeps his promise to resign from the Fremantle Society’s committee.

Looper’s Achieved Nothing … Except turn the Society’s Newsletter into a Public Relations Mouthpiece for Developers.

And why is that? Loopers was greeted as a saviour by the society a couple of years or so back. He promised to rejuvenate the organisation. To attack  –  a cut and thrust knight in shining armour who would devour anybody who dared to ruin the city. Now he has turned the society newsletter into little more than claptrap supporting council and developers, spending much of his time socialising with the very people who plan and support crass developments.

The membership of the Society has halved in two years and, in spite of Loopers promises, has not attracted a younger brigade.

When Loopers finally retired as president (for the second time) he openly admitted he had achieved nothing.  He said:

“I have had enough of ramming my head against brick walls, my input being ignored, and my time on workshops and committees being taken for granted. When elected members become arrogant and patronising and unwilling to compromise at any level, it is time to move on and stop wasting my time”.

It didn’t cross his mind that his ideas may have been impractical, that better minds didn’t agree with him, that they had picked him as being a manipulator of facts to boost his own standing.

Blind Followers Faced Legal Action

His ideas appear to be poorly researched. A case in point is QR coding which is described world wide as being an outdated technology being replaced by more efficient systems. For some reason people blindly followed his idea. We’re yet to see it working in spite of considerable public expenditure being invested.

Recently the Society committee had to disassociate  themselves from Loopers’ blog under threats of legal action for defamation. It emerged the entire committee would be responsible for legal action following Loopers defamatory remarks made against several people (including this writer) with no supporting evidence whatsoever, being reposted on the Society’s blog.  The committee came within a hair’s breath of being sued but the simple fact is that people with no profile, let alone those who have a high public profile, will not tolerate being called cowards, nazis, bullies etc.

Loopers, and by default, the committee, were saved by the fact that Loopers is a failure (he has admitted that in his blog several times). As such he is simply not worth suing. However some of the committee members do have substantial assets and the legal advice was clear:  ‘Sue them as they have repeated his  defamations via The Society’s blog and web site’.

A Vote for Dowson Will Emasculate Loopers.

So, a vote for Dowson at todays meeting will be a vote to emasculate Loopers in much the same manner as he, Loopers, has emasculated the society.

Hopefully Dowson and Farrar (who claims to be a great friend of Loopers) can make things work between them and rescue The Society by offering constructive opposition to poor quality developments. They would also regain the profile the Society had under it’s stronger leaders, who include Dowson,  all of whom Loopers failed to invite to The Society’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Dowson would attract many of the people who have deserted the movement. The committee would find themselves on an even keel and able to do what the society does best – encourage high quality development, and attack the fast buck gang of developers and architects who seem intent on killing off Fremantle’s character. That may go some way towards attracting the city’s newer residents to an experienced society which has respected membership base of experience and intellect. The old guard have a prodigious  record and a new and intelligent group is needed to join them to ensure a smooth transition which is less enigmatic and more decisive than the immediate past history has shown.

There is little question that if Dowson becomes president he and Henty Farrar could work well together. They have a deep respect, built over many years which will re-form the Fremantle Society into a powerful and respected body.