Health bureaucrats reaped hundreds of thousands in gifts, travel, report finds

Health bureaucrats reaped hundreds of thousands in gifts, travel, report finds

Senior WA Health bureaucrats corruptly reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and travel paid for by contractors in exchange for winning work on Government projects, an explosive new report has found.

Key points:

  • Three senior health bureaucrats and almost a dozen contractors caught in corruption probe
  • Report says contractors offered gifts, cash and travel in exchange for work
  • CCC fears the behaviour may extend beyond the North Metropolitan Health Service

One senior bureaucrat fraudulently billed the North Metropolitan Health Service (NMHS) for $170,000 in renovations carried out on his private home, while he and another accepted benefits that included overseas travel, restaurant meals, entertainment, cash bribes and alcohol in exchange for the awarding of government contracts.

The Corruption and Crime Commission began investigating after a tip-off from a junior whistle-blower within the department in 2014.

Its report recommends charges be considered against three former senior health bureaucrats and nearly a dozen contractors, for what was described as sustained efforts to engage in and cover up bribery.

The report named former NMHS executive directors John Fullerton and David Mulligan, as well as former facilities development manager Shaun Ensor, as the bureaucrats involved in the corrupt conduct.

Culture of corruption

“This report details more than a decade of corrupt conduct reaching into senior levels within WA Health,” the CCC report stated.

“It exposes a culture of contractors freely giving gifts and benefits to public officers, with the expectation of thereby winning work and recovering the costs of the gifts through fraud.

“The brazenness of the conduct, the number of contractors involved and the apparent indifference by all concerned … raises concerns about whether this behaviour is confined to NMHS.”

The report uncovered extensive efforts by contractors to shower Mr Fullerton with gifts and other benefits in exchange for government work.

Over about a decade, Mr Fullerton received thousands of dollars in cash and $150,000 in gifts including flights, meals, perfume and clothes paid for by contractors, according to the report.

“In return, those contractors obtained regular work at NMHS,” the report stated.

“For the majority of contractors, this was the price of doing business with Mr Fullerton.”

Expensive lunches recouped in invoices

One contractor recouped the costs of expensive lunches with Mr Fullerton by inflating monthly invoices to NMHS, something the report found was the bureaucrat’s idea.

As well as the regular lunches and being paid a $10,000 bribe, Mr Mulligan also had interstate and overseas travels paid for by contractors — with that money also recovered through subsequent invoicing of NMHS.

The other former bureaucrat, Mr Ensor, is alleged to have had lavish lunches paid for by one contractor who was bidding for Government work over which he had control.

The CCC said prosecution should be considered for 10 contractors involved in the corruption, as well as the three senior bureaucrats.

“On occasion, money added to NMHS invoices were purely for greed rather than to recoup money spent on ‘gifts’,” the report stated.

Behaviour ‘abhorrent’: Health Department

In a statement, the Health Department said it accepted the “shocking” findings of the report into the “deplorable and abhorrent” actions of its staff.

“I am deeply disturbed by the deliberate steps these senior NMHS public officers took to covertly deviate from rigorous procurement policies and procedures to manipulate processes for personal gain,” director general Russell-Weisz said.

He said the department had updated its policies relating to the acceptance of gifts and hospitality, but it was “challenging to prevent” the type of deceptive behaviour outlined in the report.