EXCLUSIVE by ERWIN CHLANDA
Police have been asked to examine the costs of an overseas trip by NT Minister Peter Chandler (at right) in September 2013, according to the Department of the Chief Minister.
The department says the trip was the “one anomaly” that had been found during an internal audit into transactions between government agencies and the travel company Latitude Travel, whose disgraced boss, Xana Kamitsis, is now behind bars.
“The anomaly relates to what is believed to be an inflated cost for a Ministerial travel to the United States and the United Kingdom in September 2013,” says the department.
Documents obtained by the Alice Springs News Online indicate the trip in question was undertaken by Mr Chandler, the Minister for Lands at the time, accompanied by the Chairman of the NT Planning Commission (NTPC) Gary Nairn (above left) and Mr Chandler’s senior advisor, Lawson Broad.
The participation of Mr Nairn was recommended by the Chief Executive of the Department for Lands, Planning and the Environment, John Coleman, on September 18, 2013.
He says in a “ministerial briefing” document that the “total cost for airfares, accommodation and transfers amounts to $30,742” for Mr Nairn.
The airfares component is shown as $20,788 in an invoice from Latitude Travel. The consultant is named as Ms Kamitsis who was sentenced in December last year to three years and eleven months (suspended after 18), for defrauding the NT Government (more than 20 counts) and offering corrupt benefits to an employee of the government.
“International travel for Government representatives is likely to be scrutinised,” Mr Coleman said in his briefing.
“In this case, the benefits and outcomes arising from the tour is directly relevant for the strategic priorities of the NTPC.”
Chief Minister Adam Giles approved the trip on September 6, 2013, according to documents obtained by us.
The Alice Springs News Online emailed Mr Chandler and Mr Nairn on Monday last week: “Please advise what benefit (a) the people of Central Australia and (b) of the Northern Territory derived from your trip starting September 21, 2013 to Canberra / Sydney / London / Aberdeen / London / Vancouver / Portland (Oregon) / Pittsburgh / Houston / Dallas Fort Worth / Brisbane / Canberra.”
Mr Chandler did not respond but Mr Nairn sent us a detailed itinerary (published below).
Mr Nairn told us yesterday he had nothing to do with the travel arrangements although Mr Coleman said in his “ministerial”: “The Chairman has reviewed and endorsed this briefing.”
The department’s media release yesterday said: “Documentation at the time shows the cost of the trip was questioned by Minister Chandler, his office and the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment.”
Mr Nairn replied to our email: “As you are aware I accompanied the then Minister for Lands, Planning and the Environment, Hon Peter Chandler, on a study trip that included locations in the UK, Canada and the USA in October 2013.
“I was requested to accompany him in my capacity as the Chairman of the NT Planning Commission (NTPC) and as a Member of the Board of the Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA).”
Mr Chandler was the Minister for Lands, Planning and the Environment from December 14, 2012 to December 12, 2014 and Minister for Lands and Planning from December 12, 2014 to February 11, 2015.
Mr Nairn emailed us the following “itinerary and a brief summary of the locations, businesses, government and individuals we visited and met”.
21-22 Sept 13: Travel Australia – London.
23 Sept: Site tour with Space Syntax, international experts in urban planning, transport, building design, social interaction and spatial economics. Visit completed and ongoing developments in City of London, including public space redesign.
24 Sept: Site tour with Veolia Environmental Services, visit treatment plants and power and energy facilities in Central and South London.
Travel London – Aberdeen.
25 Sept: Site tour with ASCO, international oilfield support services, including visit to Peterhead marine supply operations.
Meet with Aberdeen City Council to discuss urban planning in areas with growth in oil and gas industries.
26 Sept: Meet with Shell.
Travel Aberdeen – Vancouver.
27 Sept: Meet with Vancouver City Council to discuss infill, density, public housing. Site tour to community centre and neighbourhood urban design project.
28 Sept: Rest day.
29 Sept: Travel Vancouver – Portland.
30 Sept: Meet with regional government, Metro, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Portland Development Commission, including panel discussions and site tour of Rose Quarter Transit Centre and Orenco Station mixed use redevelopment.
1 Oct: Meet with GB Place Making, world authority on transit-oriented development.
2 Oct: Travel Portland – Pittsburgh.
3 Oct: Site tour, with Hess Utica a global energy company, to hydraulic fracturing site, review unconventional drilling techniques, discuss community engagement.
4 Oct: Travel Pittsburgh – Houston.
Site tour with Dow Chemical, view gas processing and products and the environmental monitoring programs.
5 Oct: Rest day.
6-8 Oct: Travel Houston – Australia.
Useful links suggested by Mr Nairn: