NT gov travel rorts end in lost contracts

sandralewfatt.ntnews

Darwin travel agent Sandra Lew Fatt says NT Government’s plan to move travel booking interstate will force local agencies out of business

 sandralewfatt.ntnews

Darwin travel agent Sandra Lew Fatt says the NT Government will put her out of business. Picture: MICHAEL FRANCHI

From the NT News, 17th July 2015

A LOCAL travel agent says she will be run out of business by the growing travel scandal, after the Government officially announced yesterday that it would no longer be booking travel through local agencies.

The announcement comes on the heels of a police investigation and internal review into certain aspects of government travel.

Sandra Lew Fatt, who has operated in Darwin for 45 years, said she was suspicious of the Government’s motives for moving to a new interstate travel booking system.

She said she would now be forced to close her doors, despite the fact she has done nothing wrong.

READ: NT POLICE BOOKED MORE THAN $50K WORTH OF TRAVEL

“I don’t see why we — the travel agents who are still here, still in business at the moment — have to be punished for the sins that aren’t even ours,” Ms Lew Fatt said on Tuesday.

She said that 95 per cent of her revenue was from government bookings.

The new booking system was first trialled in June 2014 through corporate travel companies Qantas Business Travel and FCM Travel Solutions.

Ms Lew Fatt said she then became aware that the Government was switching the way it booked travel.

“I said ‘something is wrong here, something is funny’.”

She also questioned the Government’s internal review into travel bookings from June 2014 to June 2015.

“Of course they’re not going find anything between June 2014 and now,” Ms Lew Fatt said. “Go back a couple of years and see who’s been doing what.

“My door is open for anyone who wants to audit me.”

Chief Minister Adam Giles announced the full shift to the booking system in Parliament on Tuesday, effective July 1, citing cost efficiencies and better accountability.

The Government has never said it was suspicious of any local travel agency bookings for travel, however, NT Police is currently investigating an “anomaly” the department made through a booking with Xana Kamitsis-owned Latitude Travel.

Labor leader Michael Gunner called Ms Lew Fatt and other local agents the “victim(s) of the CLP travel scandal”.

“We have significant concerns about what the CLP knew and when the CLP knew it,” he said.

“We have not got all the answers from the CLP.”

Ms Kamitsis is facing charges over allegations she rorted more than $100,000 from a government-run pensioners travel scheme.

Her lawyers have said she will fight the charges in court.

MLA Bess Price’s chief of staff Paul Mossman faces corruption charges in relation to bookings made by Latitude Travel

From the NT News, 18th July 2015

Latitude Travel owner Xana Kamitsis and senior Government adviser Paul Mossman have been

Latitude Travel owner Xana Kamitsis and senior Government adviser Paul Mossman have been charged with corruption

BESS Price’s chief of staff Paul Mossman has been charged with corruption for his role in Government travel bookings through Xana Kamitsis-owned Latitude Travel.

Ms Kamitsis — who is already facing over 100 counts of fraud for allegedly rorting the Government run pensioners travel scheme — has also been charged with three counts of “corruptly giving a benefit” and one count of criminal deception.

As first reported in the NT News, Ms Price’s office had used Latitude exclusively to book hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of travel, including the now infamous $50,000 New York City trip that Ms Price and Mr Mossman took at taxpayers’ expense. It was later revealed that Mr Mossman brought his son along on the business trip, although he claimed he paid for his airline ticket himself. That trip included $6000 for rooms at the Waldorf Astoria, $3000 for a driver to take them on a daily six-minute commute and another $6000 for two plane tickets to Washington for a seven-hour visit — all booked through Latitude.

It was not clear yesterday if the charges related to that trip or any other in the estimated $350,000 to $600,000 worth of travel Bess Price’s office booked through Latitude over a period of 15 months.

It is understood the corruption charges stem from an investigation launched by the NT Police’s Special References Unit into Government travel booked through Latitude after a series of stories in the NT News about questionable travel expenses.

Police allege Ms Kamitsis offered “benefits” to Mr Mossman in exchange for the travel booked through her agency.

A spokeswoman for Ms Price declined to comment on the matter. The NT News understands Mr Mossman had been on leave from his job for a number of weeks before the charges were formally filed. When asked last month about Mr Mossman’s extended leave from her office, Ms Price denied any knowledge of the police investigation and said he was spending time with his children “and was not forced to take leave”.

Mr Mossman worked as an adviser on transportation issues for Chief Minister Adam Giles for eight months after Mr Giles became Chief Minister.

Mr Giles tried to distance himself and his scandal-plagued Government from the current corruption allegations yesterday, first by refusing to answer questions posed by the NT News and later issuing a statement.

“The Department (of Chief Minister) has been co-operating fully with police throughout its investigation and will continue to co-operate with police,” he said in the statement.

Mr Giles added that the Government had made changes to the way it booked travel since the police investigation was called. He also pointed to a current review of public sector travel spearheaded by KPMG and head bureaucrat John Coleman.

“The Government commits to responding fully to any issues raised by this review,” he said.

But that review is only essentially looking at five months worth of travel and was announced just days after an NT News Freedom of Information request for more details into Latitude booked Government travel was stalled.

Mr Coleman has never responded to questions around the timing of the review or why Government officials did not look into the possibility of other alleged rorts of Government travel after Ms Kamitsis was originally arrested last October over the fraud charges. Mr Coleman said in a statement in May that the Government would not “turn a blind eye to unethical behaviour or stand by while illegitimate activities take place”.

Ms Kamitsis was linked to the sudden resignation of former police commissioner John McRoberts after it was revealed Mr McRoberts allegedly interfered in the pensioner travel scheme fraud investigation.

It was revealed at the time that Ms Kamitsis had a relationship with Mr McRoberts. The recent NT Ombudsman report indicated the relationship included gifts given to the police commissioner that were never declared.

Treasurer Dave Tollner, who grew enraged over calls for an independent anti-corruption body in the NT recently by saying that implementing one equated to allegations of corruption, said yesterday on Mix 104.9 that Ms Price’s travel expenses were “highly acceptable”.

Mr Mossman has been stood down from his position in Bess Price’s office with full pay while the charges are before the courts. He has been charged with three counts of corruptly receiving benefits. Ms Kamitsis is charged with three counts of corruptly giving a benefit and one count of criminal deception.

Both will appear before the Darwin Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Who is Paul Mossman?

• Paul Mossman has been no stranger to controversy in his time involved in Territory politics, most recently as the senior adviser to minister Bess Price.

• In 2005, the self-confessed weather nut unsuccessfully ran as a CLP candidate for the Darwin seat of Millner.

• In the same year he used an online political forum to claim that a 13-year-old girl who was refused an abortion “should have just kept her legs closed in the first place”. He later said it was “possibly not the best comment” and his “opinion only”.

• He was hired by Adam Giles as a departmental liaison officer in 2009 and later became his transport adviser in the first months of Giles’ chief ministership.

• This year he found controversy after he and Ms Price went on a $50,000 taxpayer-funded trip to New York. It was later alleged in Parliament he brought his son on the trip.

Penalties for charges of corruptly receiving benefits, corruptly giving a benefit and criminal deception:

A maximum of three years in jail for each offence under the NT Criminal Code.

Xana faces 37 charges for start

Ellie Turner

PROSECUTORS have filed the official indictment against Darwin travel agent Alexandra “Xana” Kamitsis, with 37 fraud charges alleging she illegally obtained about $18,000 – biding their time with the other 95 counts.

Ms Kamitsis will fight the charges in an NT Supreme Court trial expected to run for five weeks from November 17.

The Latitude Travel owner was committed to stand trial for 132 counts of fraud and theft over allegedly rorting the NT Government’s Pensioner Carer and Concession Scheme of more than $100,000.

But Crown prosecutor David Morters said it would be “oppressive” for a jury to deal with all the charges against her at once.

“The other matters will remain in the Supreme Court list – what happens with them will be determined by the outcome of these proceedings,” he said.

“There will be voluminous amounts of bank records and records from airlines, ticketing wholesalers and the Health Department.”

NT Police booked more than $50,000 worth of travel between 2010 and 2015 with Latitude Travel

From the NT News, 16th June 2015

Xana Kamitsis was arrested and charged for alleged fraud offences

Xana Kamitsis was arrested and charged for alleged fraud offences

NORTHERN Territory police used Xana Kamitsis-owned Latitude Travel to book more than $50,000 in official travel between 2010 and the end of March 2015, it has been ­revealed.

The majority of the 14 trips either involved former police commissioner John McRoberts or were signed off by him.

The dates of travel were not released.

Most of the travel was interstate but some international trips for Mr McRoberts and then-deputy commissioner Shayne Maines made up the bulk of the tab, including to London, Singapore, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Washington DC and New York for various conferences.

The trips were disclosed by Police Minister Peter Chandler during Estimates earlier this month. The NT News reported last week police were aware of allegations of the ­potential rorting of the ­pensioners scheme as far back as October 2012.

Police Commissioner Reese Kershaw said the police wanted to disclose the trips in an ­effort to be open and transparent. He said there were no suspicious charges found in the travel.

“That was one of the first questions I asked in January,” Mr Kershaw said. “There was nothing ­untoward or any anomalies in any of that (travel). But of course, we’re now not using (Latitude).”

READ: XANA TO FACE 30 FRAUD CHARGES INSTEAD OF 130

Mr Kershaw added police were now exclusively booking through the Government-run central booking agency, which all departments are expected to switch over to soon.

“A lot of us were not aware we were using that agency for official travel,” he said. “But it wouldn’t have been unusual.”

The NT Ombudsman’s ­report disclosed that Ms ­Kamitsis had given Mr McRoberts “gifts” in the past and called for the police to ­implement a gift registry and better procedures for dealing with conflicts of interest.

An investigation into Ms Kamitsis’ alleged rorting of the pensioners and carers travel concession scheme, labelled Operation Subutai, is still ongoing.

Ms Kamitsis is currently facing 132 charges relating to an alleged rort of more than $100,000.

The NT Police’s Special References Unit is currently investigating one “anomaly” in Government travel booked by Latitude through the Department of the Chief Minister.

A criminal investigation conducted by the Australian Federal Police into Mr McRoberts’ alleged interference with Operation Subutai is also expected shortly.

Everybody go “wwaaahhhh.” Adam Giles on going nuts, cracking the shits and getting hammered

“I enjoyed having a night off and getting hammered … the level of incompetence of these people is just madness. It was absolute madness, mindless stupidity and political immaturity.” Adam Giles reflects on politics, a failed coup and a big night in.

The day after Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles called the bluff of the hapless coup plotters that threatened his premiership of the Northern Territory earlier this month he flew home to Alice Springs from Darwin.

That evening he fronted the local Country Liberal Party branch meeting to explain the why, what, who and when of events the day before. It was, as they say, a free-and-frank discussion that Giles maybe assumed wouldn’t leave the room other than as an unpleasant memory. But at least one person at the meeting pressed the record button on their phone.

That recording soon found its way to the media and in The Weekend Australian Amos Aikman revealed a few tasty snippets of what Giles told the meeting. More has emerged in dribs and drabs since and Giles hasn’t denied the content or accuracy of the recording. On Tuesday this week he told the Assembly, in response to a question from Larissa Lee–ex-Pup party, ex-CLP member and now independent–that he had “not heard it, but I can tell you what I said.”

Yesterday Labor Whip Michael Gunner tabled a transcript of the recording under parliamentary privilege. The Northern Myth has obtained a copy. Followthis link to the full transcript. Below are a few excerpts by subject.

On policy development in the CLP

” … over Christmas I’ve written a new Indigenous Affairs policy. I wrote it last time and that’s what we took to the election … so it’s in draft at the moment and I haven’t spoken to anyone about it until I finalise it a bit more.”

“At the moment from where I’m sitting there is no policy of the CLP … And that’s why a lot of times the pollies don’t know what they stand for.”

” … there’s very little policies on what we agree on. We need to have a greater level of policy backbone about the party so that the politicians can stand up for those policies. So if I stand up now and say what’s the policy on this from the party, there is none … there’s no aboriginal affairs policy, there’s no policy on CAL, there’s no policy on local contracting or the Department of Infrastructure, people are still complaining that contracts go outside, but there’s no policy.”

“If you’re in the Labor Party there’s a policy this thick on every issue, every issue. So they have to, if you’re a Labor politician you have to follow the policy. We don’t actually have that here, that’s why we got into a lot trouble a couple of years ago when we brought about a lot of cuts and changes to Government spending when we came in.”

“We got bombarded publicly because there was no policy to day this is what we stand on so we sort of bumbled around for a long time, we still are bumbling around a bit in that regard … ”

On uranium mining and nuclear enrichment in the NT

” … around 2005 policy put forward by Nigel Scullion and seconded by Dave Tollner supported uranium mining … supported nuclear enrichment and nuclear power stations in the Northern Territory. Anyway so that is a policy of Government. Now I guarantee if I stood up tomorrow and said I support nuclear power stations, I reckon people would go nuts.”

On “building stuff”

“We’ve made most of the tough decisions. This year was about setting a budget up that will build infrastructure, lots of roads and bridges … We’ve got a choice of we keep trying to clear out books or we say we’re in the third year of our term, we want to get re-elected next year, we want to leave a long lasting legacy and we’re going to build the infrastructure so that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to build stuff. We have a choice of paying off the debt, we’ve got the debt down a bit and all that sort of stuff but we’re going to build stuff.”

On “cracking the shits” – the coup, colleagues and the commissioner

“Yesterday I sort of cracked the shits a bit in Darwin, some of the scurrilous rumours that have been floating around about me. For a long period of time I’ve handled it, but some of the stuff that came out in recent time, yesterday by some members of parliament on our side, I found to be horrendous.”

“To let you know exactly what happened, the old stuff with the police commissioner and the allegations about him sleeping with a woman, which are allegations at this stage, members of parliament and a particular sitting member of the police force were spreading rumours that I as the Chief Minister and as Police Minister were sleeping with the same lady that got arrested, which is the reason why Tamara and I split up, which is complete bullshit. I fronted those members of Parliament, I had a gut full of them, I sacked one of them today and tomorrow I might sack another one.

“I don’t want any more destabilisation in the team but I find that to be completely outrageous, to have a senior member of the Northern Territory police, I won’t tell you who it is but I’m just letting you know, to be doing these things and getting themselves involved in what I would call, I have good evidence that this has involved an orchestrated political coup to get rid of me as Police Commissioner, the former one.”

On “getting hammered” … everybody go “wwaaahhhh”

“Monday night I got a phone call from Willem saying he’s got the numbers, I’ve got to be honest I sat there and went fantastic I can have a beer and I went and got on the piss but that’s a different story and in the morning I woke up and I was bombarded, people around this room, people around the Territory, different branches, Chamber of Commerce rang me begging me not to go, the Cattlemen’s Association, APPEA the gas, people everywhere, Inpex rang me from Japan, don’t go, all of this stuff, no one wanted the destabilisation.”

“So I enjoyed having a night off and getting hammered. So I decided I wouldn’t sign the resignation and lo and behold the level of incompetence of the people that had tried to form a coup hadn’t thought through what it all means and for those who are interested because I presume many of you are … Unfortunately when they tried to form a coup, they only had 9 so they couldn’t find a speaker, a deputy speaker a whip or anyone to form a public accounts committee. Which means there was no Government?”

“So the level of incompetence of these people is just madness. So not only was business going to be destabilised, not only would the whole CLP tear itself apart like I’m told would never have been torn apart, and it’s mainly gone mad because of personalities but I’ll get to that in a moment.”

“So the head bureaucrat Gary Barnes … [H]e come to me and said I’ve been sent by Elferink and Willem and Robyn to tell you to sign the resignation letter immediately. And I said well piss off, you don’t walk into my unit and tell me that. Anyway so I said leave it here I’ll think about it. Because at that point in time I still had a throbbing headache at about 9.30. So when the press release came out saying Willem was getting sworn in at 5 to 11 and I’d be lobbied up hill and down dale not to resign.”

“So we had Parliamentary Wing meeting, I said Government falls over we go to an election, 10 minutes before I went to the wing meeting I raised $1.5 million for the party for the election, which isn’t in the bank … I said right we’re going to the polls and I was going to the polls yesterday make no bones about it and then during the meeting there was some very horrible things said by one of the members of this branch, among a couple of others … I said right well I’m the Chief, who wants to go to an election, everyone went wwaaahhhhh and I said right I’ll make some leeway, I’ll make Willem the Deputy which everyone has bagged me out for doing that but anyway I tried to do the right thing … and today I sacked Robyn [Lambley] because the things that Robyn has said about me about Tamara and about the accusations that have been made I found to have been horrendous and I’ll never work with that woman again, ever.”

On tearing the Attorney-General a new one, “absolute madness, mindless stupidity and political immaturity”

“At a time when everyone should have been talking about Campbell Newman, Tony Abbott and Delia Lawrie going to court, one of our members tried to run a coup, put it all about us and sent us back about another 12 or 18 months again. It was absolute madness, mindless stupidity and political immaturity what happened over the last two days. [NT Attorney-General John] Elferink needs to get his arse torn … he’s a good performer and I’ve got a lot of time for Elferink but he’s involved too, he should be in trouble but he’s a very good performer and we need him in the team. He’s very good but you can’t do this shit, it was just so badly thought out.”

On “best mates” and Russian roulette

“I don’t want to put any shit on our colleagues but this is what happened yesterday and I am trying to be clear because every member of the team whether they support me or not I respect, they may not be my best mate but I respect them. At the end of the day who knows if this trouble is over, it could start again tomorrow, it’s a little bit like Russian roulette, like having a bit of a gun to the head of all of us because all you need is someone to say, I want to be Minister or I’m going to resign and become and independent.”

You can read more on recent events in Northern Territory politics from The Northern Myth at the links below.

* Bob Gosford: Why Delia Lawrie will never be Chief Minister of the NT.

* Darwin lawyer and legal academic Ken Parish: Suspend Northern Territory self-government!

* Bob Gosford: Failed statehood. Is it time for an(other) NT intervention?

* Bob Gosford: CLP spill pours petrol, not oil, on NT’s troubled political waters

* Bob Gosford: NT politics – from crazy-brave to crazy and back again.