Fracking inquiry: is 'probity advisor' a secret?


p2449 Zodiac 1By ERWIN CHLANDA
NT fracking probe chairperson Justice Rachel Pepper is justifying the engagement of an economic consultant, who has multiple links with the petroleum industry, by saying “a rigorous assessment process” of the “current NT Government procurement processes” has been followed “which included oversight by an independent probity advisory”.
This coincides with those processes being seriously questioned, following the Zodiac enquiry which resulted in major criticisms.
Zodiac gained a government contract managing town camps when Bess Price was the Minister and she got a job with that company after her government was defeated and she lost her seat.
Tangentyere Council, which represents town camps in Alice Springs, has now also issued a statement highly critical of the process.
Following an independent audit, NT Department of Housing and Community Development Chief Executive Jamie Chalker is quoted by the NT News as saying: “Whilst I am satisfied that the tender was awarded to the organisation with the highest value for money score … we need to learn from this.”
The NT News says the audit found “no direct or indirect evidence of external interference” in the procurement but  auditors Merit Partners “identified a number of areas where government personnel didn’t comply with best practice guidelines.
“These related to the objectivity of panel members, aberrant pricing and a failure to appropriately investigate an allegation of bias.”
Justice Pepper does not dispute the statements by anti fracking groups that the company, ACIL Allen Consulting, now hired by the NT Government ordered inquiry, has major clients in the resource industry.
Nor does she dispute allegations by Rod Campbell, Director of Research, Australia Institute, that ACIL got it badly wrong at least on one occasion.
We asked a spokesperson for Justice Pepper who was on the selection panel, including the providers of the “probity advisory”.
We told the spokesperson we wanted to ask the providers of that advisory whether they could not find a suitable consultant who had links with neither the NT Government nor the petroleum industry.
We would also like to ask the provider what the “probity advisory” consisted of.
So far we have not been given those details.


  1. So Bess Price appoints Zodiac as the winner of the contract, then gets a job with them after the election.
    Move on, nothing to see here.

  2. Choosing Zodiac was one of the few good decisions that the Giles government made.
    It was a courageous decision after many years of complacency and dubious dealings by the Tangentyere Council empire.
    Ever since, the Tangentyere Council has been backbiting and whining that it was the wrong decision.
    The review into the decision found issues that could be said of any contract process, fundamentally Zodiac offered the best deal and have performed well.
    Even so Tangentyere Council have been agitating to have residents complain about Zodiac who are far more accountable than they were.
    I hope the new NT Government has the guts to stick with Zodiac and not cave in to the agitation and political pressure.

  3. Bess Price now works for Zodiac! When did she start, before or after the election? Adam Giles now works for Gina Rinehardt. When didbhe start, before or after the election?

  4. The NTG are advertising for a probity person. I chatted to the contact saying I’d be interested in the position but I commented accepting such a position would be akin to tattooing a bullseye on ones back.
    Best get a Federal investigation into this kind of thing.
    Michael Dean, you are blind if you don’t think Bess Price’s appointment would be considered unusual in any other place but the Territory!
    The real issue is, that pollies are not accountable, in or out of politics.

  5. ACIL Allen have a history of supporting the gas industry, and getting it badly wrong, for example with the Renewable Energy Target (RET), Inpex Ichthys, Fisherman’s Landing LNG terminal at Gladstone, etc.
    Their economic benefit “snapshot” for Chevron paints a glowing picture of tax and PRRT paid … but the reality is the multinational gas industry has amassed over $240 BILLION in tax credits and won’t be paying any PRRT for decades.
    In my opinion, ACIL Allen were wrong in the Santos NSW EIS. ACIL Allen failed to mention the state of Santos as a company ($9b debt and rapidly declining share price) and Chinese equity firms increasing their potential takeover holdings (and FIRB requirements which have not been approved).
    ACIL Allen also failed to mention the current global gas glut – much less the increased production in Qatar, Russia, USA, PNG, and Africa.
    The last thing the LNG market needs in the foreseeable future is more LNG – even APPEA said that during their APPEA2017 conference, with words to the effect “we’re not looking at new exploration, we’re looking to see who will survive”.
    The global gas glut and future increased production from Australia’s competitors swallows up any need for a large increase in Australian gas fields.
    In my opinion, there will be excess Queensland gas by the time Northern Territory gas comes online. The PM’s “Australian domestic gas security mechanism” … or whatever he wants to call the Gas Reservation Policy … puts even MORE pressure on ACIL Allen’s Santos EIS figures.
    ACIL Allen based their Santos EIS Economic Benefit Analysis on a recovery in global LNG prices … the only people likely to believe that in a global glut are a few politicians and “[Regulatory] Captured Agencies”. I sincerely hope that the NT Government is not one of them.
    Regulatory capture is a form of government failure that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.
    When regulatory capture occurs, the interests of firms or political groups are prioritized over the interests of the public, leading to a net loss to society as a whole.
    Government agencies suffering regulatory capture are called “captured agencies”.


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