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Aust.: WEA Chair squirms in Senate Estimates

WEA Chair squirms in Senate Estimates

Senator Rachel Siewert said today that she believed the WEA had failed in its responsibility for oversight of AWB.

"I'm shocked to be told that serious allegations of kickbacks were dismissed on the basis of blind trust," she said.

When asked by Senator Siewert why the Wheat Export Authority failed to conduct a proper independent investigation of allegations of kickbacks, WEA Chairman Tim Besley asserted that he'd "been in business a long time" and "when someone gave his word he simply trusted them."

"WEA is not a business, it is a statutory authority - with a serious responsibility to grain growers and the Australian public," said
Senator Siewert. "I can't imagine how any business could survive in the real world by simply taking such important matters on trust."

Mr Besley and WEA CEO Glen Taylor were unable to adequately explain why WEA emphatically denied any knowledge of AWB involvement with a Jordanian trucking company, when questioned by Senator Siewert in estimates last November. Today they claimed they simply did not recall it at the time.

The WEA had in fact investigated allegations of 'kickbacks' and reviewed the AWB Corporate Code of Conduct which it reported to the Minister confidentially in 2004.

The Minister did not raise any questions or concerns about the WEA report.

"The WEA has presented Estimates with a very narrow interpretation of their role in oversight of AWB which is at odds with what they tell growers," said Senator Siewert.

WEA has told Estimates that they are only responsible for ensuring that the financial returns to the grower's pool are fair and accurate, but their annual Growers Reports assert that it 'promotes increased transparency and accountability of AWB' and 'performs its functions objectively and independently'.

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