Premier should launch investigation into Transport Minister’s lucrative contract for Liberal Party friend

-->

The NSW Opposition has called on the Premier to launch an investigation into Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian’s awarding of nearly $500,000 in ‘strategic consultancy’ contracts to her close Liberal Party friend John Simos.

Today it was revealed Ms Berejiklian misled a parliamentary estimates hearing when asked about the employment of Mr Simos’ company Conrad Capital, claiming that the engagement was all the work of her department and failing to reveal that it was her private ministerial office that initiated the engagement.

Documents released under a Legislative Council call for papers shows the Minister’s chief of staff Owen Johnstone-Donnet personally requested Conrad Capital be engaged for lucrative contracts.

“I wish to request your assistance to engage Conrad Capital to undertake specific tasks in relation to transport reform….”
(Owen Johnstone-Donnet email to the Department of Premier and Cabinet, 22 March 2012)

Ms Berejiklian has known Mr Simos since they worked together in the office of former Treasurer Peter Collins.

It has also been revealed the initial Conrad Capital contract was set at $10,000 for three months work so it would not breach the $30,000 limit that would require the work to be put out to a public tender.

Following the initial three month contract, the charge rose to $25,000 a month at Conrad Capital’s request.

Mr Simos’ company has now been paid $485,000 of public funds, without ever going through a competitive selection process or tender.

“The Transport Minister has misled the NSW Parliament to cover up this blatant case of a lucrative job for her Liberal Party mate,” Labor’s leader in the Legislative Council Luke Foley said.

“Mr O’Farrell should be launching an investigation into the Transport Minister today.

“Ms Berejiklian deliberately misled budget estimates when she claimed the engagement of Conrad Consulting was entirely the work of her department.

“Documents now reveal it was Gladys Berejiklian’s office that instigated the initial engagement of Conrad Capital all along, and before the company was even registered for tax purposes.

“A Minister misleading the Parliament is a sackable offence.

“This is an appalling misuse of taxpayer dollars by a Minister supposed to be working for the people of NSW.

“If the Transport Minister has nothing to hide, she will cooperate fully with an investigation into the awarding of lucrative contracts to her friend Mr Simos.”