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ICAC finds corruption at Darwin racetrack

·2-min read

The Northern Territory's anti-corruption watchdog has uncovered misconduct and mismanagement of public resources while investigating a multi-million dollar government grant to the Darwin Turf Club.

The NT government in 2019 announced $12 million of taxpayer funds had been awarded to the club to build a new grandstand at its racetrack.

The NT Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Ken Fleming on Friday released a report following a year-long investigation into the grant.

Findings of misconduct, unsatisfactory conduct, breaches of public trust and detriment to the public interest have been made.

Corruption, failure to manage conflicts of interest and mismanagement of public resources was also found.

Commissioner Fleming said the DTC's submission for funding, following three years of lobbying, was not based on a costing.

It was also supported by so-called economic benefits and employment creation that had no justification in fact.

The club's chairman Brett Dixon and the DTC board failed to declare and manage conflicts of interest in the process.

This resulted in the contract to build the grandstand being given to one of Mr Dixon's companies, Jaytex Pty Ltd.

Commissioner Fleming also found that the board breached its obligations under its funding agreement with the NT government, which was executed by Mr Dixon on behalf of the club.

It failed to disclose a conflict of interest which meant that an NT government investigation into potential breaches of the grant agreement was thwarted, he said.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner urged the DTC board to resign, saying measures had been taken to ensure such a situation never happens again.

"The ICAC finding of duplicitous actions are appalling. People who are not elected by Territorians treated taxpayer funds as their personal plaything and put the pursuit of personal profit ahead of public interest," he told reporters.

Mr Gunner said civil action could be instigated against any private entity or person who benefited from the grant.

"The government (is also) calling for the resignation of the entire Darwin Turf Club board so an administrator can be brought in and a new board appointed," he said.

"If these resignations aren't forthcoming, I will change the act so we can sack the board."

Mr Gunner said changes had since been made to ensure the government had more power to cancel contracts if there was a conflict of interest.

New rules also ensure individuals who have decision-making power or hold office in an incorporated association can no longer benefit from a tender.

Government funding for the DTC will be reduced over an unspecified time period to recover money.

The ICAC investigation took over a year to complete and involved 54 directions not to disclose information, 34 notices to produce items or information and 28 examinations.

Over 50GB of data and 15,000 documents were examined.

The report makes 18 recommendations, relating to the governance of the DTC and associations, lobbying, ministerial and departmental policy, and grants policies and evaluation.

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