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ICAC finds former Gandangara LALC CEO corrupt

Thursday 23 February 2017

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that former Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council (GLALC) chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Johnson engaged in serious corrupt conduct by continuing to act as CEO while receiving benefits of over $107,000 of GLALC funds for his own private company between June and December 2010.

In its report, Investigation into the conduct of a former chief executive officer and members of the Board of the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council, released today, the Commission finds that Mr Johnson knew that his company, Waawidji Pty Ltd, was receiving the benefits from GLALC via funds deposited into the Waawidji bank account, although he knew that under the Aboriginal Lands Rights Act 1983 (the ALR Act), he was not entitled to continue to be employed as the CEO of GLALC because he was a person who had an interest in a corporation that received a benefit from GLALC.

The Commission also found that Mr Johnson engaged in serious corrupt conduct by improperly favouring Gandangara Future Fund Ltd (GFF) on 14 occasions, between 30 June 2011 and 12 November 2012, by authorising the transfer of funds totalling $5,370,000 from the GLALC trust account to GFF, knowing that he did so contrary to legal advice he had obtained that any transfer of funds from GLALC to GFF had to be via a commercial loan secured by a charge.

Mr Johnson authorised 13 of these transfers, totalling $4,970,000, knowing that they did not comply with a GLALC board resolution of 11 July 2012, authorised 12 of the transfers, totalling $4,670,000, knowing that they did not comply with a GLALC members’ resolution of 27 July 2011, and authorised three of the transfers, totalling $960,000, despite knowing that his actions contravened an ALR Registrar compliance direction of 31 August 2012.

Mr Johnson further engaged in serious corrupt conduct by exercising his official functions as GLALC CEO to arrange the payment by GLALC invoices, totalling $70,568, to fund the Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council’s development for sale of 10 lots at Terrace Falls Road, Hazelbrook, to ensure that the lots could be sold so that Waawidji would benefit by receiving $5,500 (including GST) for each lot sold.

The Commission does not make any findings of serious corrupt conduct against members of the GLALC board. The ICAC is not of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to the prosecution of Mr Johnson for any criminal offences. As Mr Johnson is no longer employed by GLALC, the possibility of taking disciplinary action against him or taking action with a view to his dismissal as a public official does not arise.

While the Commission does not make any corruption prevention recommendations in this report, the evidence obtained during the course of this investigation will help to inform the ICAC’s forthcoming report on Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

Media contact: ICAC Manager Communications & Media Nicole Thomas 02 8281 5799 / 0417 467 801

Investigation report   Fact sheet