Investigation summaries

Police

Operation Oldfield

Allegation

In early 2014, IBAC commenced an investigation into allegations that a Victoria Police prosecutor improperly used his position as a prosecutor to withdraw a serious charge that was likely to succeed, and to accept a guilty plea to the lesser charge. 

Outcome

IBAC provided the results of its investigation to Victoria Police. The prosecutor was then suspended on full pay pending the outcome of a further criminal investigation by Victoria Police into the same matter. Victorian Police made a determination not to continue with criminal charges.

As a result of this investigation, IBAC recommended that the relevant agency inter alia:

  • review policies governing court processes, including the authority granted to prosecutors to withdraw substantive charges and processes to proactively oversight such decisions 
  • report to IBAC on how Victorian Police ensures prosecutors have the required standard of integrity and judgement. 

Operation Yarrowitch

Allegation

IBAC commenced an ‘own motion’ investigation, Operation Yarrowitch, in January 2016, concerning a police officer (referred to as First Constable Y) who had been the subject of two previous complaints relating to alleged use of illicit drugs. Victoria Police’s Professional Standards Command (PSC) initially investigated both complaints. IBAC reviewed these investigations and identified additional lines of inquiry that could be pursued.

Outcome

Operation Yarrowitch established that a sibling of First Constable Y was involved in the use and trafficking of illicit drugs, and that First Constable Y was at the very least aware of his drug use.

IBAC investigators executed a search warrant on the private residence of First Constable Y and found quantities of cocaine and MDMA (allegedly belonging to First Constable Y’s brother) and seized electronic devices. 

Private examinations were also conducted. First Constable Y denied under oath using drugs while a police officer. When presented later with evidence to the contrary, First Constable Y made admissions to illicit drug use while a serving police officer. 

IBAC has charged First Constable Y with making a false or misleading statement to IBAC and four counts of perjury in relation to evidence given during the private examinations.

Operation Yarrowitch featured in a Special report concerning illicit drug use by Victoria Police officers: Operations Apsley, Hotham and Yarrowitch, tabled in December 2016.

IBAC has made recommendations to Victoria Police to undertake a comprehensive review of illicit drug use by its officers, with the objective of strengthening its policies, systems and practices to detect and prevent such conduct. 

The Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police is to provide IBAC with a progress report by 30 June 2017, and final report by 30 June 2018 on development and implementation of a more robust framework to prevent and detect police illicit drug use. These reports will be published on IBAC’s website.

Operation Hotham

Allegation

In October 2014 IBAC commenced an ‘own motion’ investigation, Operation Hotham. The investigation centred on allegations that a serving police officer was:

  • involved in using and supplying illicit drugs 
  • closely associating with persons involved in the supply of illicit drugs 
  • assisting and protecting drug suppliers.

Outcome

The investigation found the officer was a user of illicit drugs, and was closely associated with people involved in significant criminal activity. There was also evidence the officer protected an associate from law enforcement attention.

IBAC determined against pursuing criminal charges against the officer and referred the matter back to Victoria Police to instigate disciplinary proceedings. The officer resigned under investigation from Victoria Police the day before a discipline hearing was to take place in November 2015.

Operation Hotham featured in a Special report concerning illicit drug use by Victoria Police officers: Operations Apsley, Hotham and Yarrowitch, tabled in December 2016.

IBAC has made recommendations to Victoria Police to undertake a comprehensive review of illicit drug use by its officers, with the objective of strengthening its policies, systems and practices to detect and prevent such conduct. 

The Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police is to provide IBAC with a progress report by 30 June 2017, and final report by 30 June 2018 on development and implementation of a more robust framework to prevent and detect police illicit drug use. These reports will be published on IBAC’s website.

Operation Apsley

Allegation

In June 2015, IBAC commenced an investigation into an allegation that a police officer at a metropolitan station was trafficking and possessing drugs of dependence for their own personal use and to sell to other officers of Victoria Police. By September 2015, the investigation had revealed an interconnected social network of sworn police officers and civilians, each suspected of using (and in some cases trafficking) illicit drugs. Operation Apsley was subsequently expanded to examine the conduct of these police officers.

Twelve police officers were subject to targeted drug tests during Operation Apsley. Four returned positive results for drugs of dependence including cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine. A further two officers returned negative drug tests but later made admissions under oath to using illicit drugs during their police careers. 

As part of IBAC’s investigation, between August 2015 and April 2016, 23 private examinations were conducted with 17 individuals, including 12 police officers and five civilians.

Outcome

Operation Apsley featured in a Special report concerning illicit drug use by Victoria Police officers: Operations Apsley, Hotham and Yarrowitch, tabled in December 2016.

As a result of Operation Apsley, one officer was dismissed from Victoria Police, two resigned under investigation, one was admonished and allowed to return to work, and two remain suspended awaiting criminal and/or discipline proceedings.

IBAC also charged one officer with the offence of inciting a witness to mislead IBAC. A second was charged by Victoria Police in relation to drug offences. IBAC has made recommendations to Victoria Police to undertake a comprehensive review of illicit drug use by its officers, with the objective of strengthening its policies, systems and practices to detect and prevent such conduct. 

The Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police is to provide IBAC with a progress report by 30 June 2017, and final report by 30 June 2018 on development and implementation of a more robust framework to prevent and detect police illicit drug use. These reports will be published on IBAC’s website.

Operation Ross

Allegation

In March 2015, IBAC received CCTV footage from Victoria Police showing the alleged mistreatment of a woman in custody in the cells of the Ballarat police station in January 2015. The woman, who had been arrested for public drunkenness, was later revealed to be a serving police officer on leave for medical reasons. 

Given the seriousness of the allegations, IBAC subsequently commenced an own motion investigation named Operation Ross. 

The investigation expanded to examine:

  • incidents involving alleged excessive use of force against other people at the Ballarat Police Station
  • Victoria Police data which indicated the complaint profile of Ballarat Police Station was a cause for concern (including the over-representation of sergeants in complaints)
  • the response of senior police managers at the divisional level, as well as Professional Standards Command (PSC), to that concern.

As part of IBAC’s investigation, public hearings were held at Ballarat Law Courts in May 2016. 

Outcome

The IBAC investigation found that:

  • there was evidence of systemic issues at Ballarat Police Station including excessive use of force and questionable treatment of vulnerable people.
  • Victoria Police data indicated the complaint profile of the station was a cause for concern, including the over-representation of sergeants in complaints.
  • there were serious shortcomings in Victoria Police policies and practices including oversight regarding promotions, interventions when an officer has multiple complaints, and compliance with the strip search policy and the Charter of Human Rights. 

While beyond the scope of Operation Ross, IBAC’s report also notes a potential area of law reform for the Victorian Government to consider- the decriminalisation of public drunkenness.

IBAC has made recommendations to Victoria Police to address these issues, and also recommended that Victoria Police consider whether charges should be brought in relation to the January 2015 incident.

The investigation was the subject of a special report to State Parliament in November 2016.

Operation Blyth

Allegation

IBAC received a complaint detailing allegations that a vulnerable woman had been assaulted and mistreated while in the custody of Victoria Police members at an outer Melbourne station.

Given the seriousness of the allegations, the complaint proceeded to investigation.

Operation Blyth looked into whether officers used excessive force against the woman during arrest and while in custody, and if they prevented her from going to the toilet.

Outcome

After reviewing CCTV footage, interviewing key people and other investigative techniques, IBAC concluded the police members involved had acted appropriately. The complaint was closed with no further action.

Operation Darby

Allegation

In February 2010, a complaint was lodged with the then Office of Police Integrity alleging excessive force and racial discrimination by Victoria Police during the arrest of Mr Nassir Bare. The OPI decided to refer the matter to Victoria Police for investigation, however, that decision was subject to legal proceedings, which resulted in the Court of Appeal returning the matter to IBAC to make a fresh decision in relation to the correct course for dealing with the complaint.

Following a thorough assessment of the matter IBAC decided to investigate the original allegations.

Outcome

IBAC interviewed Mr Bare, the subject police officer, civilian and police witnesses, and reviewed available documents from the time, including medical records and Victoria Police records. IBAC concluded there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the original allegations. The complaint was closed with no further action.

The investigation was subject of a special report to State Parliament in May 2016.


Operation Herbert

Allegation

In July 2013, Victoria Police notified us of a complaint that a member of its Witness Protection Unit had disclosed information about a person who had been in the Victoria Police witness protection program.

Outcome

Our investigation found the member had released information as part of an application to the Supreme Court of Victoria. As a result we found the allegation against the police member to be unsubstantiated. The conduct was part of a lawful process which required the Court to consider certain documents relating to the witness, in the public interest. We informed all interested parties of this outcome, including the Chief Commissioner of Police.

Operation Hydrogen

Allegation

In February 2013, the Victorian Ombudsman notified us of a complaint made by a senior police officer about Victoria Police management.

In November 2013, Victoria Police notified us of a complaint by the same officer alleging detrimental action in response to his earlier complaint by members of the Victoria Police senior command.

Taken together, the complaints included allegations of:

  • poor treatment during an internal investigation and denial of natural justice
  • detrimental action in a return to active duty to an inferior position, despite the basis for the initial investigation having been found to be unsubstantiated
  • lack of action by senior command in responding to the matter.

Outcome

Our investigation found that:

  • Victoria Police took reasonable steps in response to the initial allegations. However, subsequent multiple investigations conducted into the allegations had taken over 18 months
  • IBAC could identify no evidence that any person at Victoria Police intended such a delay. Victoria Police took reasonable steps to ensure the senior officer was updated on the progress of investigations, and provided appropriate welfare and support assistance
  • the transfer of position offered following the investigations was appropriate and commensurate with the rank, skills and experience of the senior officer.

Victoria Police and the senior officer were informed of the outcomes of our investigation in February 2014.


Operation Styx

Allegation

We received information from Victoria Police concerning the unauthorised disclosure of sensitive information by a member of the Victoria Police Professional Standards Command (PSC) to a serving police member under investigation. The allegations were exposed during an interview with an officer during the course of PSC Operation Clinique.

Sensitive documents identified as being accessed and printed by an officer, were located by police whilst conducting unrelated inquiries. This prompted the start of Taskforce Keel, formed to explore links between members of the Victoria Police and criminal elements, including members with links to outlaw motor cycle gangs.

The allegations made were that a target of Operation Clinique (Target 1) recounted that another target (Target 2) had received information concerning covert methodologies being used in the investigation of him. This information allegedly came via an intermediary who had allegedly been warned by a member of PSC.

Outcome

In the course of witness interviews and private coercive witness examinations, the evidence from those directly concerned supported an IBAC finding that the now former member of PSC (who had since been promoted to another area of Victoria Police) had improperly leaked the highly sensitive information in question. The former PSC member was an unsatisfactory witness, stating he could not remember the incident but was not prepared to deny it may have occurred.

As a result of IBAC's investigation, Victoria Police took disciplinary action, admonishing the former PSC member.

Operation Snowy

Allegation

Operation Snowy investigated alleged corrupt behaviour of a member of Victoria Police in the Benalla Crime Investigation Unit. On 12 July 2013, we received an anonymous complaint alleging disgraceful, unethical, unprofessional and corrupt behaviour by a member of police in regional Victoria, involving the purchase of a vehicle involved in an investigation and misuse of a police vehicle for private use.

Outcome

The investigation found that the allegation that the officer used his position to advantage himself to be unsubstantiated. The allegation against the officer misusing a police vehicle was also unsubstantiated.

We recommended Victoria Police consider the ethics of an officer involved with property from his/her own investigations.

Operation Tamar

Allegation

An allegation was made that police officers at a metropolitan police station were falsely issuing penalty notices. These were mostly for smoking in the local mall against known offenders, without the notices ever being served on the offender. The allegation was that the practice had been adopted to secure impressive work performance statistics.

Outcome

We found the allegations were without foundation, and no pattern of misconduct could be established. We notified the Chief Commissioner of Police in January 2014.

Victoria Police Operation Plyers

Allegation

In May 2013, Victoria Police notified us of an internal complaint regarding an investigation codenamed Operation Plyers, an offshoot from the Petra Taskforce which had commenced in 2008.

Petra Taskforce was established to investigate alleged Victoria Police member connections to the 2004 murder of police informers Mr Terrence and Mrs Christine Hodson. The Taskforce was supervised by a steering committee which included members of Victoria Police senior command, as well as a Deputy Director of OPI. The principal allegation was that an officer in the Petra Taskforce had authorised the discontinuance of criminal charges that a key witness was facing in exchange for information being provided. This had allegedly been done without any prior approval.

The investigator had struck an agreement with a person charged with serious offences, who had undertaken to provide the information. The information and level of cooperation was subsequently considered by the investigator to be insufficient, and the agreement was not fulfilled. The defendant subsequently successfully relied on the agreement to avoid trial and asset confiscation.

Outcome

We found there was no record of the Petra Taskforce steering committee or any member of the committee (or any other person or body) approving the agreement. It is also clear that the Office of Public Prosecutions was not consulted about the agreement. As a result, we concluded there was no sufficient basis for a finding that the investigator was authorised to enter into the agreement.

We also found no unprofessional, inappropriate or improper relationship between the investigator and the defendant.

We noted the internal complaint was not made to PSC until August 2011, and there was a further lapse of almost two years until the matter was notified to us. These delays, considered to be innocent, complicated our enquiries.

We referred the matter – insofar as it related to the conduct of the Operation Plyers investigator and any possible disciplinary proceedings – to the Chief Commissioner of Police in December 2013.

We have since been notified by Victoria Police of its further investigation into the conduct of the investigator, resulting in the complaint allegations being ‘unable to be determined’. Victoria Police do not intend to take any further action.


Operation Warrego

Allegation

In early 2013, we received information about possible unauthorised access to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) financial transactions database, by a Victoria Police officer.

The alleged unauthorised access, by a Detective Senior Constable in a metropolitan Criminal Investigation Unit, was for information about a known criminal, with a request that the information be sent to a private email address.

Outcome

Our investigation established that the request for information was for legitimate police purposes, with the private email address used (albeit contrary to police protocols) due to the police officer being on leave at the time.

In notifying Victoria Police, a number of issues were drawn to the attention of the Chief Commissioner of Police, including the receipt and use of AUSTRAC information by members of police, and work conducted by police officers whilst on recreational leave.

Operation Wren

Allegation

In 2010, OPI commenced Operation Wren, an 'own motion' investigation into the outcome of a Victoria Police Ethical Standards Department (ESD) investigation, into alleged misconduct by members of the Mounted Branch. 

In 2008, officers of the Mounted Branch complained to ESD about the conduct of fellow officers which resulted in them being suspended from duty. As a result of advice from the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP), the suspended officers were not prosecuted. Nor were disciplinary charges proceeded with after the officers were deemed to be medically unfit.

The complainants, who were subsequently assessed by the Ombudsman as whistleblowers, then submitted written complaints to OPI. The complaints comprised more than 50 allegations against eight police members, ranging from unlawful disclosures of telephone intercept material and confidential information, to inappropriate interference with witnesses and preparation of the criminal brief.

The OPI investigation involved a review of an allegation of detrimental action lodged by one of the complainants with the Ombudsman, and identified a number of issues relating to Victoria Police’s dismissal procedures, internal witness support program and whistleblower protections. These matters have been considered separately by Victoria Police in response to its own investigations.

Outcome

We completed the investigation of this matter and found allegations that the ESD investigation had not been managed properly and/or had been interfered with or undermined improperly to be unsubstantiated.

We also found no evidence to support serious allegations that the identities of internal witnesses had been improperly or inappropriately revealed, or that telephone intercept material had been leaked unlawfully.

We informed the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police of its findings.

Councils

Operation Charnley

Allegation

A complaint was made that a councillor was accepting bribes in the form of purported gifts in exchange for awarding community grants to a prominent local businessman. Due to the seriousness of the allegations, IBAC decided to investigate. As part of Operation Charnley, IBAC interviewed relevant witnesses and reviewed the council’s conflict of interest and councillor code of conduct policies, and their community grants procedure. 

Outcome

While the allegation could not be substantiated, IBAC identified concerns regarding the conduct of individuals in public office, as well as broader issues which caused the council to be vulnerable to corruption, including: 

  • conflicts of interest not being reported and a lack of knowledge about when a conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest exists
  • behaviours inconsistent with the councillor code of conduct. 

IBAC recommended the Minister for Local Government consider providing the council with advice that it thoroughly review its policies, procedures and training in the following areas to ensure that the vulnerabilities identified in IBAC’s Operation Charnley have been addressed, and that councillors fully understand their obligations in relation to:

  • councillor code of conduct
  • conflict of interest
  • gifts benefits and hospitality

IBAC requested that the Minister provide a report to IBAC on the aforementioned recommendations within six months stating:

  • whether or not they have taken action as recommended by IBAC
  • if they have not taken action or do not intend to take the recommended action, the reason for not taking or intending to take the action.

In December 2016, the council CEO provided a response to the Minister for Local Government, with key actions the council is taking summarised as follows:

Conflict of interest

The municipal council engaged an external provider to conduct a comprehensive introduction to the requirements of the Local Government Act 1989, with particular emphasis on conflicts of interest provisions. All councillors were reminded of their obligations under the legislation and the importance of recognising both potential and perceived conflicts. Following this half day session, an additional session was conducted to provide a further opportunity for councillors who may have missed the first session or felt that they required further information or wished to discuss personal circumstances in greater depth. All councillors were encouraged to attend at least one of the sessions, with a number of councillors taking the opportunity to attend both.

The importance of recognising and declaring all forms of conflict of interest has been further enhanced for this term of council with the introduction of a Conflict of Interest Declaration. This Declaration is required to be filled in by each councillor and signed at every Assembly of Council to keep a record of council attendance for each individual briefing and whether any conflicts have been recorded and resolved accordingly. This Declaration prompts all councillors to consider any potential conflicts on a weekly basis while also enabling the organisation to maintain records of attendance and whether any conflicts have been declared. 

Gifts, benefits and hospitality

The organisation’s councillor code of conduct requires any gift (including benefit or hospitality) valued at over $20 to be declared and registered with the organisation. The legislative requirements relating to gifts and benefits were further reinforced during the training conducted by the provider in 2016.
In 2016 the council conducted a workshop to commence the review of the councillor code of conduct. A key component of this review was discussion around how not only gifts, benefits and hospitality must be handled, but also the importance of declaring any offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality to ensure full transparency.

The importance of these requirements will continue to be reinforced as council continues their review of the code of conduct.

Behaviour of persons in a position of public office

In both the training sessions held in 2016, emphasis was placed on what it means to be a councillor in terms of requirements of public office as defined under the Local Government Act 1989. Areas of focus included councillor and staff interaction protocols, community expectations of the role, and the need to act with integrity at all times.

The councillor code of conduct review workshop held in 2016 provided further opportunities to explore what this means in the municipal context and councillors were required to read and provide input into each individual section of the code. Further workshops will be held ahead of the endorsement of the revised code.

In addition to the work outlined above, the importance of the code of conduct principles will be further reinforced at a council planning workshop in 2017. This workshop will provide opportunity to emphasise the role of councillor and the expectations and requirements demanded by not only the Local Government Act 1989, but the broader community.

Annual refresher training in the areas previously identified will also be held for councillors throughout the duration of their term. These sessions will also provide opportunity for further reinforcement of code of conduct principles.


Operation Blackwood

Allegation

In August 2013, IBAC received a complaint principally alleging interference in the sale of St Brigid’s Church in Crossley by a Moyne Shire Councillor.

It was alleged the councillor interfered with the private tender process of the sale with the intent to assist a community group to purchase the property at a reduced price.

A particular concern for IBAC was an allegation that the Councillor had falsely told the unsuccessful higher tenderer that the Council would not issue works permits or allow development of the property. This allegedly facilitated a financial advantage for the community group, being a $150,000 reduction in the sale price of St Brigid’s Church.

Outcome

IBAC’s investigation led it to conclude that the complaint was unfounded.

Operation Clarence

Allegation

On receiving a notification from the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate (LGICI), we investigated allegations that a Councillor received bribes to support planning proposals.

Operation Clarence examined whether $60,000 had changed hands over one commercial development, and whether the Councillor was continuing to solicit and accept bribes for other development applications.

Outcome

After a thorough investigation, the specific allegation of bribery was unsubstantiated. Nor did the investigation find the Councillor was receiving ongoing bribes. The investigation was closed with no further action.

Operation Continent

Allegation

In early 2013, Mitchell Shire Council notified IBAC of allegations of corrupt conduct by council employees at the Broadford Works Depot. The allegations investigated by IBAC included:
• a corrupt business relationship between a council employee and an external contractor
• unauthorised work by council employees, using council materials, in return for cash payments
• invoicing of the council for work not undertaken and improper use of council staff and property by an external contractor
• theft of council equipment and property, including fuel, tools and vehicle parts, by council employees
• fraudulent purchasing of goods by council employees.

Outcome

The IBAC investigation confirmed fraudulent purchasing but did not substantiate the other allegations. However, the investigation did reveal a number of issues in the conduct, management and supervision of the depot, including poor record keeping, a lack of registers for manage physical assets, inadequate controls such as regular audits and effective separation of duties and inappropriate relationships with external contractors.
 
Following the investigation, IBAC reviewed whether the issues in the investigation existed more broadly across the local government sector, releasing the Review of council works depots report in May 2015.

Operation Fraser

Allegation

Following a Victoria Police investigation, IBAC received a notification from the Victoria Police Professional Standards Command (PSC) alleging a metropolitan city council employee had stolen council animal management equipment and given it to members of an outlaw motorcycle gang.

As the allegation was that activity had occurred in the past, Operation Fraser focused on whether the officer had current criminal associations and if so, whether he was using his council employment for their benefit.

Outcome

On all available evidence, IBAC found the employee did not have current associations with the outlaw motorcycle gang members or associates.

However, IBAC recommended the council conduct a review of the accountability of unsupervised staff, and consider improving:
• policies and procedures around the use and supervision of council vehicles
• how policy and procedures are communicated and implemented in the work place
• staff awareness of conflicts of interest and their obligations under council policies.

The council accepted IBAC’s recommendations.


Operation Rubicon

Allegation

On 7 October 2013, we received a complaint concerning a regional shire council. It alleged an unnamed councillor had been assisting a building company to win council tenders.

Our investigation was unable to identify the unknown councillor said to be assisting the builders win tenders. Our investigation was unable to find any evidence of this specific allegation, however there was an occasion where a councillor and a director of the council had unsuccessfully attempted to use their positions to influence the outcomes of two tender processes in favour of the builders. The investigation was unable to find any direct evidence that link this allegation to those matters.

On 18 October 2013, we received a complaint about the same council concerning interference in two tender processes by a current and former councillor, with the intended beneficiary being the same builders as the previous allegation. 

The allegation was that a councillor used his position on 15 July 2013 in an attempt to influence the outcome of a tender process by arranging for distribution of an alternate evaluation paper in favour of a company of builders.

Outcome

Our investigation, through council minutes and interviews with key council personnel, identified that this event did in fact occur, however the council vote recommended that the original tender evaluation stood in favour of an alternative builder. The investigation failed to identify any serious corrupt conduct regarding this allegation.

It was also alleged a councillor used his position to assume the chair of a tender evaluation panel for a local project, and influence the outcome of the process to favour a company of builders. They directed a staff member involved in the process to produce a report recommending those builders contrary to council practice.

An internal investigation into this matter commenced which resulted in the councillor’s contract being terminated. The subject of the allegation has been appropriately investigated and resolved by Council. No further action was required.

The investigation results were provided to the Local Government Compliance Inspectorate for their further action/review.


Operation Severn

Allegation

On 17 April 2013 we received an allegation from the Victorian Ombudsman involving the awarding of contracts by a city council. It stated that the project was poorly managed, resulting in cost increases. The notifier also alleged that he was approached by a council officer soliciting a bribe. They stated that after refusing the bribe the council allegedly then stopped paying their invoices and the reason given was that the work was poor.

Outcome

Our enquiries showed that the contract in question had gone significantly over the estimated costs even allowing for variations. There was no evidence to suggest that bribes had been offered or accepted.

We contacted the notifier repeatedly seeking further information as to why the allegation was made but by this time the notifier had left the last stated address and did not respond to our calls and letters. The matter was closed pending further information from the notifier.


State government

Operation Shannon

Allegation
Operation Shannon concerned an IBAC investigation into allegations that former senior employees of Melbourne Polytechnic (MP) engaged in serious corrupt conduct in relation to a property leased to MP.

Outcome
IBAC's investigation did not substantiate the allegations of corruption.

However, in the course of the investigation, IBAC identified a number of corruption vulnerabilities. IBAC subsequently made recommendations to address these vulnerabilities, namely that MP review its policies, systems and practices in relation to procurement, conflict of interest, record keeping, information systems and private use of assets by employees, and associated education and training for staff.

In May 2017, MP provided a response to IBAC, outlining key actions MP is taking to address the corruption vulnerabilities identified in Operation Shannon. IBAC acknowledges that a number of those initiatives had already started prior to the commencement of IBAC’s investigation.

Operation Nepean

Allegations

In September 2014, IBAC commenced an investigation into allegations of corrupt conduct by Jeff Finlow, a former facilities manager at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (DPFC).

In its investigation, IBAC examined allegations that Mr Finlow:

  • failed to comply with proper procurement processes and policies when awarding contracts to his son
  • failed to declare a conflict of interest
  • influenced the successful recruitment of another son, as a senior prison officer at DPFC in the facilities department.

Outcome

IBAC’s investigation found Mr Finlow subverted procurement processes to provide work to companies owned or operated by his son (and his son’s wife) to a value of $1.56 million. This included sharing competitors’ quotes, as well as failing to consistently obtain the required number of quotes for jobs, helping his son’s companies to submit cheaper quotes and win contracts.

Mr Finlow also used his position to influence the recruitment of another son at DPFC, despite his son not having the electrical qualifications required for the position.

Mr Finlow was stood down from his position while an internal investigation was conducted. He resigned in June 2015. After due consideration, IBAC decided there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr Finlow with criminal offences.

IBAC identified a number of corruption vulnerabilities at DPFC that helped facilitate Mr Finlow’s conduct. This included the failure of senior management to adequately oversight Mr Finlow or respond appropriately to his conflicts of interest. Recommendations were made by IBAC for DPFC to address these vulnerabilities.

IBAC also recommended Corrections Victoria (CV) review its policies and procedures to address the corruption vulnerabilities identified in Operation Nepean and take steps to ensure those vulnerabilities are addressed by other prison facilities under its control.

CV subsequently responded to the recommendations, including recommendations one and two on behalf of DPFC. CV advised that DPFC has made a number of changes to its procurement practices since the commencement of Operation Nepean. CV advised that it did not consider further action was required in relation to other prison facilities under its control, as procurement policies and procedures overseen by the Department of Justice and Regulation (DJR), have been assessed as adequate.

The investigation was the subject of a special report to State Parliament in April 2017

Responses to IBAC recommendations

Response from Corrections Victoria to IBAC's Operation Nepean

Operation Liverpool

Allegation

In December 2014, IBAC commenced an own motion investigation into allegations of corrupt conduct by Adam Hardinge, a former construction manager at Bendigo Health. 

The investigation was expanded in May 2015 to include allegations concerning Bendigo Health’s Chief Executive Officer John Mulder.

IBAC investigated allegations that:

  • Mr Hardinge had engaged in corrupt conduct including collusion with Bendigo Health contractors for his personal benefit and the theft of property. 
  • Mr Mulder had used Bendigo Health employees to undertake works on two of his wife’s properties without payment and on Bendigo Health time, as well as corrupt conduct allegations that he had claimed living away from home allowance while living in properties owned by his wife.

Outcome

IBAC’s investigation found Mr Hardinge took Bendigo Health property and materials without proper authorisation, and circumvented the usual procurement controls in place at Bendigo Health for the benefit of himself and certain contractors. Mr Hardinge was charged and subsequently pleaded guilty to seven charges of theft, one charge of obtaining property by deception, and one charge of attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception.

The investigation also found that on a number of occasions Mr Mulder used Bendigo Health resources for his own private benefit, engaging in conduct contrary to the Victorian Public Sector Code of Conduct and Bendigo Health’s stated organisational values. The corrupt conduct allegations regarding Mr Mulder’s remuneration arrangements with Bendigo Health were not substantiated to IBAC’s satisfaction. Mr Mulder temporarily stood down as Chief Executive Office in February 2017.

IBAC also identified organisational and systemic corruption vulnerabilities at Bendigo Health that facilitated this conduct. IBAC made recommendations to address these issues.

The investigation was the subject of a special report to State Parliament in March 2017.

Responses to IBAC recommendations

Summary of proactive response from Ambulance Victoria to IBAC's Operation Liverpool

Operation Dunham

Allegation

IBAC investigated allegations of serious corruption at the Department of Education and Training (DET), focusing on:

  • how contracts around the $180 million Ultranet project were tendered for and awarded
  • the personal and business connections between department employees and businesses involved in the Ultranet project
  • whether current or former department employees released confidential information, or used their position to influence procurement processes
  • whether department employees received payments, gifts, travel, employment opportunities or other benefits because they were involved in the Ultranet tender or procurement processes
  • department procurement and conflict of interest processes, and organisational culture

Outcome

IBAC tabled a report to Parliament on 27 January 2017 detailing a number of improper actions and behaviours by senior departmental staff that effectively corrupted the Ultranet’s tender process. 

Behaviours identified by IBAC included:

  • the inappropriate receipt of hospitality and travel
  • improper communications during the tender process intended to influence the process
  • a likely attempt to influence the tender evaluation outcome by ‘stacking’ an assessment team with like‑minded colleagues.

IBAC found decisions were made that were contrary to proper procurement process, in particular, the decision to give singular preference to a particular bid, despite serious concerns being evident about its credentials in the relevant area. 

The IBAC investigation also revealed payments of almost a million dollars of public sector money were improperly injected into an external company in an attempt to prop up the Ultranet project. 

IBAC has made recommendations to DET including: 

  • conducting a review of current arrangements governing how schools and other work areas pursue and respond to commercial opportunities
  • advising on action taken to strengthen internal procurement and governance arrangements for major projects to ensure accountability and transparency.

IBAC has also made a recommendation to the Victorian Public Sector Commission to consider the implementation of a ban on public sector employees receiving any gift, benefit or hospitality from a current or prospective supplier, and a recommendation to the Department of Treasury and Finance to consider improvement to reviews of high value and/or high risk projects.

Responses to IBAC recommendations

Response from Department of Treasury and Finance to IBAC's Operation Dunham

Operation Warburton

Allegation

IBAC received a complaint alleging employees of the regulatory body misappropriated government funds for their own benefit, and that of an associated union to which they had personal ties. It was alleged a beachside property owned by a union member, was rented by the regulatory body to house disadvantaged apprentices but was instead used as a holiday house by a trade union secretary. Similarly, a Melbourne property rented for apprentices to live in was used for other purposes. The complainant also alleged the employees pushed for the regulatory body to pay more than $100,000 to support a union initiative because, ‘It’s what we do to keep the unions happy’. 

Outcome

Due to a complete absence of formal paperwork and controls, the IBAC investigation could not substantiate that the properties in question had been used for personal or other interests. There was no record to substantiate rental arrangements for the properties, and invoices signed by the regulatory body lacked the most basic of details, such as the address of specific rental properties. Additionally, there were no controls in place to ensure the state government funding package was spent as intended to support apprentices – as the money was deposited into the regulatory body’s main bank account used for day-to-day expenses. Nor did the regulatory body have any arrangement to review or audit the administration of the apprentice support program, and no enquiries were made to confirm the properties were being used as intended. 

The investigation found the arrangement between the regulatory body and union ran for nine years and involved four separate rental properties without any formal written arrangements, administration or audit. A total of $355,000 was paid to this program. 

While not constituting corrupt conduct, IBAC found there had been a breach of duty in allowing two senior employees to operate as trustees two years after their tenure expired, and that the pair breached their duty as trustees in supporting a union initiative, which they were personally involved in, and not declaring a conflict of interest. IBAC made recommendations to the regulatory body to improve their processes around accounting and record-keeping, and declaring and managing conflicts of interest. The recommendations have been accepted and acted upon.

Operation Forbes

Allegation

In April 2014, IBAC investigated an allegation that two members of a local emergency response unit engaged in corrupt conduct.  

It was alleged between December 2012 and November 2013, fraudulent payments were made by two officers of the local emergency response unit to a company of which they were directors and shareholders. 

Outcome

The investigation determined that the allegations were unsubstantiated.  

However IBAC’s investigation did uncover systemic corruption vulnerabilities at the responsible authority and recommendations were made to the relevant principal officer to assist that authority in addressing those vulnerabilities.

Operation Wakefield

Allegation

IBAC investigated bribery allegations concerning three former employees from a public body licensing team. Allegations were made that the employees had solicited bribes and/or loans from licensed and unlicensed applicants in the regulated service industry. In some instances, it was alleged that bribes were solicited in return for expediting the licence application process.

Outcome

IBAC’s investigation found that a former regulatory officer, whilst employed at the public body, solicited and received money from service provider licensees and applicants. It could not be determined whether the officer provided anything in return for the money received. Accordingly, it was determined that it was not in the public interest to pursue prosecution of the officer. 

IBAC also found that the bribery allegations relating to the two other former employees could not be substantiated due to insufficient evidence and the inability to corroborate witness accounts.

During the investigation, IBAC found systemic corruption vulnerabilities within the public body’s licensing team including: 

  • A number of current and former employees of the public body’s licencing team engaged in significant gambling, and at least two of those employees had incurred substantial debts. 
  • There were inappropriate relationships between some employees of the public body’s licencing team and members of the service industry regulated by the public body.
  • There was a failure to proactively conduct regular probity checks on service provider licensees. 

IBAC made recommendations to the Department of Justice and Regulation (DJR) to assist in strengthening the public body’s corruption prevention systems.

Operation Toucan

Allegation

In 2013, IBAC received information that a Victorian public sector employee working at a statutory body was releasing confidential information.

Outcome

While IBAC was unable to establish direct evidence of the employee passing on information, IBAC was able to establish the employee’s: 

  • links to persons of interest to law enforcement  
  • failure to disclose declarable associations 
  • proven unauthorised or otherwise inappropriate access to some agency-held information
  • suspicious conduct regarding other issues in connection with the person’s employment. 

The employee was the subject of disciplinary action by their employer on the basis of the information uncovered by IBAC, and was dismissed.

Operation Exmouth

Allegation

IBAC investigated allegations a senior employee employed by Places Victoria, Mr Carmine Petrone, dishonestly awarded contracts for work to entities with whom he had a familial relationship and which were effectively under his control. It was also alleged policies were flouted in a range of areas including procurement, declaration of conflicts of interest, information management, and recruitment.

Outcome

IBAC’s investigation found Mr Petrone’s conduct was inconsistent with the standards expected of a public servant prescribed in the Code of Conduct. He failed to declare or manage his clear conflict of interest, and failed to act impartially as he used his power to provide a benefit to his relatives.

The investigation found the majority of allegations against Mr Petrone were substantiated, and that he:

  • failed to declare his familial connection with the subcontractors
  • was directly and inappropriately involved in the management of subcontractors, and their invoicing
  • failed to follow Places Victoria policies in a range of areas including procurement, declaration of conflicts of interest, information management and recruitment.

IBAC also found a number of organisational or systemic vulnerabilities that were found to have contributed to this corrupt conduct going undetected and made recommendations to Places Victoria to address these matters, including improving recruitment processes, information security, and enhancing training for new staff.

Places Victoria has responded to IBAC’s recommendations, outlining action taken or providing its response to existing arrangements, which it believes are sufficient.

The investigation was the subject of a special report tabled to State Parliament in October 2016.


Operation Fitzroy

Operation Fitzroy information and documents are unavailable while the matter is before the courts.

Operation Tambo

Allegation

This matter was a protected disclosure notification relating to allegations against an employee of the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation (DSDBI).

It was alleged that an employee of DSDBI had deliberately made procurement decisions to benefit a not-for-profit organisation to which he had links. The alleged amounts totalled $5,000 and $25,000. It was also alleged that in 2012, the employee interfered with a tender process to benefit an agency where a friend worked. It was stated that in the original tender review, the particular agency ranked fourth but following intervention from the employee, the agency was elevated to first.

Outcome

Our investigation did not substantiate any of the above allegations and no indictable offences were discovered. The matter was referred to the Victorian Ombudsman to consider.

Operation Wyong

Allegations

IBAC received information that a man had attempted to bribe a public official to secure multiple grave sites at a suburban Melbourne cemetery, over and above what the cemetery allowed and could accommodate. 

An IBAC investigation examined:

  • the conduct of the individual at the centre of allegations
  • the conduct of employees
  • the adequacy of the cemetery’s processes and systems. 

The IBAC investigation was accompanied by a targeted internal audit by Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust of relevant gravesites and burial records.

Outcome

Following that investigation, IBAC brought charges against the person who allegedly attempted to bribe an employee of the cemetery trust. In December 2014, a Point Cook man was convicted of attempting to bribe a public official and was fined $10,000.

IBAC did not establish direct evidence of corruption by cemetery employees. However, we did establish issues with GMCT’s record keeping, staff training and internal policies. In response, GMCT took steps to improve its systems and processes (including replacing out-dated manual systems), its policies and procedures, recruitment processes and ethics training.