Doubts cast over WA tech minister's business dealings

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Doubts cast over WA tech minister's business dealings

Premier’s department calls out 'conflict of interest'.

WA's most senior bureaucrat has brought to light the questionable business dealings of former WA finance minister Dean Nalder, after an internal government review found Nalder's association with members of the local IT industry amounted to a conflict of interest.

Nalder oversaw WA’s IT and procurement functions as part of the Finance portfolio until he stood down last week, following revelations he held interests in a fleet leasing company which overlapped with his official responsibilities.

The information prompted the chief of Western Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, Peter Conran, to announce a review into Nalder's business dealings, which he made public late last week. 

In his report, Conran reserved particular concern for the relationship between the minister and Alan Ariti, the group executive of information systems at network provider Amcom and a former iiNet CIO.

Ariti was identified as a co-investor with Nalder in a portfolio of shareholdings. Conran described the partnership as amouting to an “actual conflict of interest” with the former Finance Minister’s decision-making role when it comes to whole-of-government IT strategy and purchasing.

He also confirmed that the personal and business relationship between the men was never disclosed by Nalder.

Details of a 2014 lunch meeting between Ariti, Nalder and other political and departmental staff – one of whom is Nalder’s first cousin – have also emerged.

Nalder waited until this month to provide details of the meeting to Conran, which included a “high level discussion of IT issues” and sought Ariti’s opinion of WA government IT reforms.

“While it is appreciated that the minister was seeking advice from a credible industry source to help form a better strategy for government, the minister again failed to identify the potential conflict that could arise from any decisions he may have subsequently made and the benefits that may have flowed to Mr Ariti’s company,” Conran stated in his report.

The report also revealed Nalder had been prompted by the DPC to sell off his shares in iiNet and Amcom in September 2014.

Despite the damning report, Premier Colin Barnett opted to keep Nalder in the state cabinet as Transport Minister, a move that has drawn criticism from the Labor opposition.

“Again and again Mr Nalder mixed his own personal business interests with his responsibility as a cabinet minister,” shadow government accountability minister Rita Saffioti said in a statement.

“Anyone who reads this report will tell you that this minister must be sacked today."

The Finance portfolio, including responsibility for IT, has been passed onto mines and petroleum minister Bill Marmion.

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