Subcontractors have called for action amid growing evidence of questionable conduct over a corporate collapse which saw 1,600 small businesses lose $90 million and 140 workers lose their jobs, wages and entitlements.
The Subcontractors Alliance has backed calls by Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works Michael de Brenni for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Federal Police to investigate evidence aired on an ABC report early in November that Walton Construction director Craig Walton may have knowingly traded whilst insolvent for six months prior to the company’s collapse in October 2013.
“When Walton collapsed in 2013, some 1650 small businesses across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria lost $90 million, and 140 Walton employees lost their jobs and entitlements,” Williams wrote.
“People lost their businesses, homes, marriages and health.”
The latest calls follow the airing of an ABC report earlier this month in which the broadcaster claimed to have seen a confidential liquidator report from Grant Thornton from July 2016 outlining alleged breaches of director duties the Corporations Act by Walton.
These include claims that Walton used company money to repay bank debts which he had personally guaranteed whilst continuing to rack up debts owned to subcontractors and that Walton was aware that his company was insolvent as early as the end of March 2013 – more than six months prior to the firm’s collapse.
According to the report, a letter was forwarded in March 2013 to Walton by the company’s auditors which cited concerns that the company may be trading whilst insolvent.
Despite this, Walton under examination in the Federal Court insisted that neither Walton’s Queensland branch Walton Construction (QLD) Pty Ltd) or its Victorian based company Walton Construction Pty Ltd became insolvent until October 2, 2013.
The confidential document also alleged that Walton may have engaged in ‘improper use of position’ by transferring money from the Queensland branch to a different company and using these to pay debts owed to the National Australia Bank (which held a personal guarantee from Walton) whilst continuing to rack up debts to subcontractors.
Williams expresses disappointment that he did not receive a response after writing to the Prime Minister in September asking him for help in referring the Walton case to federal authorities.
“Given the complete lack of meaningful action to bring justice and compensation to the victims of these corporate crimes, I wrote to Prime Minister Turnbull in September 2017 seeking his assistance in referring these criminal matters to authorities who we hope would take more direct and timely action to deal with the problems,” Williams said.
“I have yet to receive any response.”