Fox-force probe cost with­held

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWSFRONT - PA­TRICK BILLINGS

A GOV­ERN­MENT depart­ment has re­fused to re­veal how much it paid a con­sul­tant to in­ves­ti­gate pub­lic ser­vice mis­con­duct within the now de­funct $40 mil­lion Fox Erad­i­ca­tion Pro­gram.

The Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries, Parks, Wildlife and En­vi­ron­ment launched a probe into pos­si­ble breaches of the State Ser­vices Act after a tip-off from Tas­ma­nia Po­lice.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion cen­tred on the only em­ployee iden­ti­fied by po­lice still work­ing for DPIPWE but it was qui­etly dis­banded after the em­ployee sud­denly re­signed this year.

The State Gov­ern­ment told Par­lia­ment that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion could not con­tinue if the per­son was no longer em­ployed. The em­ployee is no longer un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion depart­ment.

It re­vealed that for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment sec­re­tary Si­mon Over­land ap­pointed a spe­cial­ist con­sul­tant from the pri­vate sec­tor to in­ves­ti­gate.

DPIPWE de­clined to pro­vide re­mu­ner­a­tion de­tails to the Mercury or re­veal how many for­mer em­ploy­ees had been flagged by po­lice.

Fox pro­gram critic MP Ivan by the Dean is fu­ri­ous the in­ves­ti­ga­tion ceased be­cause of the res­ig­na­tion and has vowed to keep push­ing the mat­ter.

In 2016, po­lice ex­am­ined a dossier from Mr Dean al­leg­ing fox ev­i­dence col­lected around the state by the erad­i­ca­tion pro­gram had been fab­ri­cated.

Po­lice de­ter­mined there was no crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing, but re­ferred it to DPIPWE and the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion be- cause of pos­si­ble mis­con­duct by em­ploy­ees at­tached to the pro­gram.

The In­tegrity Com­mis­sion, which brought in a po­lice of­fi­cer on the fraud squad to carry out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, is fi­nal­is­ing its re­port.

The pro­gram, which sought to erad­i­cate foxes from Tas­ma­nia, ran from the early 2000s to 2014 and failed to find a sin­gle live fox.

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