CIT CEO Leanne Cover temporarily steps aside as ACT Integrity Commission announces investigation into consultancy contracts

Written by Javed Iqbal

The CEO of the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) has agreed to take leave until an investigation into the latest in a series of controversial consulting contracts is completed.

Earlier this month, ABC revealed that since 2018, CIT had awarded nearly $ 8.5 million in four contracts to two companies, Think Garden and Redrouge Nominees Pty Ltd, both owned by Patrick Hollingworth..

The most recent contract signed with Think Garden in March was for $ 5 million and is subject to an internal audit commissioned by the CIT Board.

On Thursday night, it was revealed that CEO Leanne Cover, who was in charge of the procurement processes for all the contracts, had been asked to take leave until the independent investigation was completed.

In a statement, CIT Chairman Craig Sloan said Ms. Cover had agreed to temporarily step aside and that the board would also conduct a performance appraisal of the CEO.

Contracts were suspended last week after it was revealed that the CIT ignored several warnings from officials.

The ACT Integrity Commission is to examine four CIT contracts

A woman in a blue shirt wearing a white jacket smiles at the camera
CIT has previously stated that it was within Leanne Cover’s powers as CEO to complete procurement processes without the involvement of the Board of Directors.(TAFE Directors Australia)

Earlier Thursday afternoon, the ACT Integrity Commission announced that it would examine four contracts awarded by the CIT to Mr Hollingworth’s companies.

This is the first time since its inception that the ACT Integrity Commission has publicly confirmed a decision to investigate a case. But Integrity Commissioner Michael Adams said it would not become standard practice.

“This minimizes the risk that the investigation, or indeed the safety and reputation of witnesses and other persons of interest, will be compromised.

“Public announcements of investigations will only be given where there are significant equivalent reasons for doing so.”

Commissioner Adams said in this case that recent discussions about the contracts in the media and the ACT Legislative Assembly had made it “desirable” to announce the integrity commission’s decision to investigate the matter.

“It also provides an opportunity to request any person or entity with information regarding the Commission’s investigation report to provide their information to the Commission as soon as possible,” he said.

Resolution welcomed by government and opposition

A man with orange hair and beard smiles and looks to the side
Companies owned by Patrick Hollingworth, a mountaineer and public speaker, have won CIT contracts worth nearly $ 8.5 million.(Celebrity speakers)

The Integrity Commission’s decision to examine the range of contracts was welcomed by ACT Skills Minister Chris Steel, Canberra Liberals and ACT Greens.

Sir. Steel had previously written to the chairman of the CIT board, to express his concern about the contracts and ask the board to explain what jargon used in the tenders actually meant.

“We really welcome these independent reviews of these cases, which will get to the bottom of what has happened and whether these contracts are value for money, what they will deliver and why they were implemented,” he said.

Opposition leader Elizabeth Lee said she hoped the study would result in a result that was “in the best interests of staff, students and CIT going forward”.

“Many Canberrans are rightly concerned about these contracts, and I welcome the Integrity Commissioner’s decision to investigate this issue,” she said.

“It’s really important for governments to have an independent oversight function, and that’s exactly why the Greens have been campaigning for an integrity commission for so long, and it’s good to see it in action.”

ABC has contacted Mr Hollingworth for comments on many occasions. He does not have the answer.

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