‘Evidence’ WA senior official stole $25m

Former senior West Australian bureaucrat Paul Whyte has faced Perth Magistrates Court charged with more than 500 offences.
Former senior West Australian bureaucrat Paul Whyte has faced Perth Magistrates Court charged with more than 500 offences.

THERE is evidence a high-ranking public servant from Western Australia’s Department of Communities stole up to $25 million or 10 times more than he is currently charged with, a court has heard.

Assistant director-general of corporate operations Paul Whyte, 56, and his close associate, 43-year-old Jacob Anthonisz, are accused of raising false invoices for more than $2.5 million in payments to two shelf companies.

Whyte faced Perth Magistrates Court on Friday, where police prosecutors opposed a bail, saying the investigation was ongoing and there was evidence the total theft was $20-25 million.

Corruption and Crime Commission chief executive Ray Warnes said, if proven, it would be the most serious case of public sector corruption in Australia.

Mr Dawson said a large investigation remained ongoing to account for public monies “over a much longer period of time”.

Department of Communities Director General Michelle Andrews said she was shocked and disappointed by the unfolding events.

“Since my appointment, I have been introducing stronger governance, risk management and audit practices as well as bringing in additional skills and capabilities to support communities,” she said.

“But clearly, further work needs to be done by all of us to build a department with a stronger culture built on integrity, honesty and service delivery and to regain public trust and confidence.”

Ms Andrews said she had also instigated an independent review looking at matters of integrity within the department and had taken immediate steps to appoint an interim assistant director general from outside of Western Australia.

WA’s public sector has recently been rocked by other allegations of serious misconduct and corruption.

In March, a CCC report revealed the former state trade commissioner to Japan, Craig Peacock, had committed a $500,000-plus rort, including “double-dipping” his allowance and dining with friends at the taxpayers’ expense.

In September, Judith Innes-Rowe, who worked for 23 years at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital as a clinical trials manager, was accused by the CCC of claiming more than $500,000 in overtime payments to which she wasn’t entitled.