DHA comes under spotlight

AN alleged suspicious financial transaction uncovered during a recent audit of Defence Housing Australia prompted the examination of DHA by the Australian Federal Police.

The Department of Finance has confirmed it referred an issue concerning DHA to the federal police.

But neither the department or the federal police have been commenting to media further, saying it would be inappropriate while the police evaluation took place.

The Department of Finance and Department of Defence are major shareholders in the organisation which manages a property portfolio valued at more than $10 billion.

Many properties in Sale are either owned or rented by DHA, catering for RAAF personnel and their families.

According to DHA acting managing director Jan Mason, DHA currently manages 138 properties in Sale.

She said of these properties, 70 were leased, 59 were owned by Defence and nine were owned by DHA.

“Of the 59 owned by Defence, 50 are scheduled to be renovated to ensure that they continue to meet the standards set out by Defence,” she said.

In recent times, DHA has not been disposing of local older housing in the area, but renovating and keeping properties, presumably to cater for increased numbers of RAAF personnel with the imminent expansion of the east Sale base to accommodate the Air 5428 contract.

“We have purchased some land in Sale recently in order to meet our future provisioning targets as set by the Department of Defence via the annual Defence housing forecast,” Ms Mason confirmed.

A local real estate agent said Defence Housing had bought stages five and six at the Woondella Estate and was planning to develop the land, retaining some of the blocks for itself and selling the balance on the open market.

Last week Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said many people in Gippsland, particularly local investors and the Defence community in Sale, were dependant on housing provided through Defence Housing, and would have a close interest in this request for an investigation.

“I’m not in a position to comment on the request from the Department of Finance as I have no additional information on the background to the department’s concerns,” he said.

Responding to speculation the government wants to privatise Defence Housing, Mr Chester said the government had repeatedly stated it had no plans for privatisation.

“I have no reason to believe that has changed,” he added.

The former Abbott government considered privatising it and commissioned a scoping study in the 2014 budget, but the option was ruled out in the 2015 budget.