CORRUPTION at Perth’s North Metropolitan Health Service went undetected for up to a decade and resulted in the “gross misuse” and fraudulent misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds, a report has revealed.
The Corruption and Crime Commission says its report on bribery in maintenance and service contracts within the NMHS, released on Thursday, highlights “serious misconduct at its most shocking”.
An allegation from a whistleblower sparked the investigation, which uncovered public officers accepting tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, including travel, accommodation, entertainment and expensive and boozy lunches, in return for awarding work.
The investigation looked at the allocation of lucrative contracts at NMHS hospitals including Sir Charles Gairdner, Midland, Joondalup, PathWest and Graylands.
On one occasion, the wife of a public servant went along on a business-class flight to Canada, where the couple attended their son’s wedding.
Contractors and public officers colluded to subvert the official procurement processes, a practice known as “bid rigging”, and thousands of dollars were paid to keep the work flowing.
A senior public officer even used contractors to renovate his private residence then helped them to fraudulently invoice NMHS about $170,000 for the works.
The CCC says warning signs were left unexplored and fear for their jobs prevented some NMHS officers speaking out.
CCC Commissioner John McKechnie has described the conduct as fraud on the state.
The former Supreme Court justice says he is not easily shocked and was surprised by the scale of corruption.
The commission suggests prosecuting authorities consider laying criminal charges against three former public servants.
These include former NMHS executive director of facilities management John Fullerton and David Mulligan, the former executive director of Perth Children’s Hospital Service Integration.
It also recommends laying charges against at least 10 private sector contractors.
The CCC is concerned this may just be a sample of corruption in WA Health and possibly in other larger state government agencies undertaking contracting activities worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“When an individual who holds public office is confronted with choosing between the duties and demands of their position and their own private interests, they are expected to defend the public purse,” the CCC said.
“Every dollar corruptly converted was a dollar less to be spent on healthcare.”