ICAC: AWH had $36 in the bank yet told government it was worth $200m

Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos told Brian McGlynn  that "the jury's still out on you". Photo: Andrew Meares
Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos told Brian McGlynn that "the jury's still out on you". Photo: Andrew Meares

The Obeid-linked infrastructure company Australian Water Holdings told the state government it was worth up to $200 million when it had $36 in the bank, a corruption inquiry has heard.

Brian McGlynn, who was retained by the NSW Labor government to assess a public-private partnership proposal d by AWH, told the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Friday he thought the company "was worth very little".

The inquiry heard that Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos, then deputy chairman of AWH, told Mr McGlynn at a March 2010 meeting that "the jury's still out on you" because he was not supportive of the proposal.

Mr McGlynn said he replied: "I don't do this to be loved. I've got a dog for that."

A cabinet minute drafted by Mr McGlynn, which recommended the PPP proposal be rejected, was allegedly doctored by crooked former Labor minister Eddie Obeid's political allies Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly.

Mr McGlynn said that whoever altered the minute had used a software program to erase the metadata and history of the document so that the authors of the changes could not be detected.

"It has to be erased, it doesn't just disappear by itself," Mr McGlynn said.

The inquiry was shown a 2010 proposal by AWH, submitted to the government, which valued the company at between $150 million and $200 million.

"There was some suggestion that at the time the proposal was going forward there was $36 in the bank," counsel assisting ICAC, Geoffrey Watson, SC, said.

"It's not a suggestion," Mr McGlynn said. "We got accounts from Australian Water Holdings [around March 2010] as part of a request for further information."

Mr McGlynn said he thought the company was worth "somewhere between $5 million and $10 million" based on its existing contract with Sydney Water to roll out water and sewerage infrastructure in the north western suburbs.

In a private interview, Mr McGlynn was asked to rate the PPP out of five stars in the style of "the movie show with David and Margaret". He gave it "half a star maybe", adding "maybe Margaret would agree or disagree, she often has strange views".

Mr Watson asked Mr McGlynn in jest if he stood by his comments about Margaret Pomeranz and he said he did.

Earlier on Friday, the inquiry heard that AWH billed the public utility for a $300 wedding present for an employee of the company, Colin Bible.

Josephine Power, a former office manager at Australian Water, said her bosses thought it would not be appropriate to use petty cash to pay for the gift.

"Better get Sydney Water to pay for it," Mr Watson quipped.

The commission is investigating allegations AWH secretly charged Sydney Water for millions of dollars of administrative costs, including limousines, luxury hotel accommodation and legal fees.

The Obeid family allegedly had a secret 30 per cent stake in the company.

Late on Friday, Liberal powerbroker and lobbyist Michael Photios told the inquiry he flatly rejected an offer by Australian Water chief executive Nick Di Girolamo for a success fee if he helped secure the PPP.

Mr Photios was paid $5000 a month in 2011 to lobby for Australian Water. The inquiry has heard the company considered paying Mr Photios a $1 million success fee but he said the figure was never mentioned.

Mr Photios said he opposed success fees, which have since been outlawed in NSW, because they could encourage people to "move outside of the black and white letter law and...into grey areas and
potentially corrupt the process".

The inquiry was adjourned briefly on Friday after "serial pest" Peter Hore stormed into the hearing room and allegedly assaulted a police officer.

This story ICAC: AWH had $36 in the bank yet told government it was worth $200m first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.