Wednesday 28 September 2011

Will Queenslanders take note or have they turned off and waiting for the inevitable election?

Campbell Newman wife's family company sought $30m for flood contract

A Compant set up by Campbell Newman's wife and her family sought up to $30 million a year from the Queensland Reconstruction Authority in an unsolicited pitch to provide disaster recovery expertise weeks after the Brisbane floods earlier this year.
The company, which is 60 per cent owned by Lisa Newman's family and headed by her brother, Seb Monsour, also pushed for a position within the newly formed authority on February 7, despite having been in business for less than a month. Mrs Newman was secretary of the company for the first three weeks of its existence, while her husband was still serving as Brisbane's lord mayor and was yet to make the switch to lead the opposition Liberal National Party from outside parliament.

The company, initially registered as Invictus Solutions but now trading as Majella Global Technologies Asia Pacific, was registered on January 21, a day after it first offered its services to the Bligh government in assisting with the recovery from the January 12 floods. Majella has not won any work with the Reconstruction Authority, which has instead used existing Queensland government agencies to provide services similar to those touted by Mr Monsour, a businessman and former state Liberal candidate.A source said the "inhouse" services cost less than $500,000.

In documents obtained by The Australian, Mr Monsour offers a service, developed in the US, that uses "real time" communication and mapping technology that allows data and reports from the field to be sent to a centralised hub that then plans a "speedier" disaster response. Mr Newman, who has previously stated that he and his wife have no financial interest in the company, has been on leave for several days.

Last night, he issued a statement saying he had no knowledge of the $30m-a-year proposal and that he and his wife had no financial interest in the venture. "This was a proposal put to the Labor state government by Seb Monsour that I had no knowledge of and took place while I was Lord Mayor of Brisbane," Mr Newman said.

"I am not a state government decision-maker nor am I an elected member; therefore there is no conflict of interest. I can categorically state that Lisa and myself have not received any financial benefit and will not in the future receive any financial benefit from the operations of Frank and Seb Monsour's company."

Following revelations about the existence of the disaster management company earlier this month, Mr Newman bowed to pressure and publicly released his wife's declaration on pecuniary interest to the Brisbane City Council in April. Mr Newman also confirmed he was being paid $12,000 a month by the LNP.

Mr Newman has refused to update his pecuniary interest register, made while he was still lord mayor, saying his financial interests have not changed and it is not required under law because he is not in parliament.

Queensland's Deputy Premier and Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, who is in London on government business, said the $30m-a-year bid raised questions about the LNP leader, who will contest the Brisbane seat of Ashgrove at the election due in March.
"This raises more and more questions about a person who has still refused to disclose all relevant financial interests," he said.

Mrs Newman was company secretary during the set-up of Invictus Solutions. She resigned several weeks later, on February 9, two days after Majella sought a position within the Queensland Reconstruction Authority.She remains a director of Majella's major shareholder, Frank Monsour Family Investments, headed by her surgeon father, of which she is a beneficiary.

Mrs Newman declared her involvement in the Frank Monsour Family Trust in her pecuniary interest register as the wife of the then lord mayor, but made no reference to the existence of the disaster-recovery business, despite detailing the real estate holdings of her father.

On September 14, Mr Newman said Mr Monsour sent an email to John Bradley, then director-general of the Department of Environment and Resource Management, saying: "We've got this product, it might be of assistance at the current time, are you interested?" Mr Newman added: "And that's the extent of it."

Documents obtained by The Australian show that, at the same time, Mr Monsour also sent emails to then deputy premier Paul Lucas and Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts. In the emails, Mr Monsour boasted that his company's products had been used after Hurricane Katrina in the US and the Haiti earthquake.

"We are the Asia-Pacific representatives of Global Relief Technologies . . . we simply belief (sic) our product can provide immediate benefit in the support of the recovery efforts in Queensland," he said in the email to Mr Roberts.

In further material sent to the Bligh government on February 18, Mr Monsour provided "two scenarios" for services that the company could offer. The first was priced at $6.7m in the first year and $5.2m in the second year. The second was priced at $29m, including more than $4m a year to cover employees' meals and accommodation expenses.

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