Monday, 8 February 2016
Recently I was approached by a senior person in the Pilbara, concerned, as many are, that Aboriginal communities are being ripped off by unscrupulous outsiders who manage the organisations, buying off board directors while structuring extraordinarily lucrative salary packages for themselves. The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations does not always seem to be providing the oversight one would expect given its legislated role. The administration of Gumala Aboriginal Corporation has been a matter of notoriety for many years in the Pilbara—$66 million dollars of native title funds have been spent—and many TOs feel that this has been without sufficient regard to the interests of the majority of the 2,000-plus beneficiaries.
ORIC did a routine investigation in 2011, which led to a notice of notice of compliance. But the conduct of former CEO, Steve Mav, seemed immune from action. A new investigation has finally been commenced after years of resistance by ORIC. The details of the extravagance of Mr Mav and his feting of directors have been set out by my colleague in the state parliament, Ben Wyatt, and by Paul Cleary in The Australian. Email correspondence between Steve Mav and ORIC registrar, Mr Anthony Beven, that was protected from release under FOI application has recently been brought to my attention. This shows that the pair were in constant contact; the tenor is very personal.
Some emails have Mr Beven commenting on board election results. Others show Mr Beven actively supporting the removal of the trust body GEPL, which was the only block to Mr Mav's total control. But they warned that his support should not be made public because it might cause people to vote against it. Clearly Mr Beven was a player. Others show the extent of the relationship extended towards planning Mr Mav's political future. On 27 June 2013, Mr Beven says:
Stephen Smith resigning - time to show your hand
Mr Mav, in reply, says:
I am not surprised he chose to retire. The Labor Party will struggle to hold on to the seat.
However, that was not correct. Then in September 2013, Mr Beven got into politics again when he said:
Only one Labor Senator elected in WA - if you were on 5th spot on a full ticket, no chance of election
Mr Beven cannot be permitted to have any involvement with the current investigation into Gumala, and an inquiry is needed as to whether he has breached the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct.