GPWA rejects calls for audit

29 Aug, 2001 10:00 PM
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THE Grain Pool of WA has defended another scathing attack from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association over GPWA's operating efficiency as the PGA renews its call for an independent audit of the WA grain marketer.

GPWA chairman Robert Sewell has rejected the PGA's claims that it has high operating costs and a lack of incentives, corporate discipline, feedback and transparency in its operations.

"There is no substance to what they are saying and are ill-informed comments," Mr Sewell said.

After failing to see eye-to-eye at a PGA grain council meeting earlier this month, the PGA wants an independent audit of GPWA conducted to expose and scrutinise every transaction over the past five years.

Mr Sewell said that meeting was the first contact the PGA had had with GPWA in more than a year, therefore the PGA could not know what was going on at GPWA.

According to Mr Sewell, the PGA has never bothered to find out what was going on at the Grain Pool, so he doubted whether the PGA could, or would, be able to identify a lack of corporate governance.

He described it as a wild assumption.

While GPWA is taking measures to reduce costs and improve efficiency, Mr Sewell said if the PGA wanted an independent audit, GPWA had nothing to hide, but they could pay for it.

He described the call as ridiculous because there was already a process of auditing in place.

And the "unsubstantiated claims" as an underhanded attack that was "despicable" and an attempt to score cheap political shots.

"Their philosophy represents only a minority of the WA public," he said.

"They have failed in their attempt to have the marketing system changes and have now reverted to personal attacks on directors, which is despicable.

"We have some very qualified directors."

But according to PGA Western Grain Growers committee chairman Leon Bradley, it is the cost-plus system used by GPWA and the lack of transparency that disguises the high cost of its operations and opportunity costs.

Mr Bradley believes GPWA, in its own way, is as much in the dark as producers concerning costs.

"They could be getting things wrong and don't even know it," Mr Bradley said.

"We are very concerned about the costs GPWA is imposing on the industry."

The PGA is now on a warpath to expose the problems it sees with the operation of GPWA, inform growers of the costs and will be working with other marketers and agencies that eventually might help people bypass the system.

"GPWA are clinging to their privileges and not looking after the interests of growers," Mr Bradley said.

"Growers want more choice in the disposal of their produce."

He went as far to say that GPWA was not doing graingrowers a favour by taking administration costs for this year out of reserves because it was still effectively coming from the growers' pockets because the reserve came from growers originally.

Although a GPWA review was raised earlier in the year, the PGA believe Agriculture Minister Kim Chance backed out of an election promise to commission a review of the operation of GPWA.

In a letter to the PGA, Mr Chance said he would, through a review, investigate the following areas:

pThe foreign exchange policies, operations, management reporting and accounting for foreign exchange hedging, particularly in relation to the powers granted under the Grain Marketing Act 1975

pThe effectiveness and efficiency of the operations of the Grain Pool in marketing prescribed grains, in particular the reasons behind the increases in costs per tonne of marketing prescribed grains in recent seasons

The PGA claims Mr Chance has stalled on the issue.

The Minister was unavailable for comment at the time Farm Weekly went to print.

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