MD in hot water

By Geoff Adams

Goulburn-Murry Water’s new chair Diane James said she was appalled at the Victorian Ombudsman’s findings that the authority’s former managing director had claimed more than $20000 in expenses inappropriately.

‘‘There are many people in these communities doing it tough and they will be rightly outraged by these findings, which is why we’re seeking legal advice on how we can recoup any expenses incorrectly approved,’’ Ms James said.

The ombudsman released a 70-page report last Wednesday.

Former managing director Pat Lennon left the water corporation last month and the former chair, Jo Anderson, resigned in July.

‘‘G-MW has already put in place measures to address the issues raised by the ombudsman and has accepted all of the recommendations made in the report,’’ Ms James said.

‘‘This includes a review, already under way, into relevant policies and procedures to ensure the issues raised in this report are being addressed.

‘‘We have fully co-operated with this investigation which was triggered after a G-MW employee raised concerns with the appropriate authorities.

‘‘What has occurred is completely unacceptable and I’m sure the community will be appalled at the findings in the ombudsman’s report detailing conduct which will be well below community expectations.’’

Ms James was appointed to the board in August, and has inherited the aftermath of the governance changes.

She said the ombudsman’s report was testament to the fact that all G-MW employees, no matter their position, were held to these same standards of conduct.

Mr Lennon told Country News his contract, which included a controversial $20000 relocation allowance, was agreed to by the then chair, Ms Anderson, and his work claims were all approved by her.

The ombudsman’s report disclosed a series of disagreements between the managing director and senior management over what he was entitled to claim.

In one case, the report found the managing director had insisted the corporate secretary cease paying his salary until the living-away-from-home allowance was sorted out. The chief financial officer declined, citing legal issues.

The dispute over the living-away-from-home allowance ended up costing G-MW about $17000 in legal advice.

The corporation’s governance issues in the past seven years include the dismissal of the board by the water minister in 2011, the removal of half of the board in 2015 due to the minister’s concerns about tackling local issues, the introduction of a Strategic Advisory Panel to examine G-MW’s strategic direction and planning and the minister’s decision this year to establish a Transformation Panel to work with the board and report back to the minister to address strategic issues.