In mid-November 2021, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (the ICAC) made public the report on its investigation into the sourcing of software systems for the Western Sydney Institute of TAFE (WSI).
This investigation concerned allegations that the WSI Finance Manager and another Finance Officer accepted payments totalling approximately $449,000. The Finance Manager also accepted gifts including a laptop computer, a cordless telephone, and installation of built-in cupboards at his home as inducements to show favour to the provider of budgeting and planning software known as iPlan.
Complaints and enquiries into the Finance Manager’s behaviour and procurement processes stretched across multiple years:
The ICAC investigation revealed scant records of any investigations of the matter.
The final report found that the Finance Manager may not have complied with TAFE procurement rules, exceeded their delegation, and may have breached the TAFE code of conduct.
The report also recommended putting four allegations to the Finance Manager, but NSW TAFE decided that there was insufficient evidence to do that. The Finance Manager’s supervisor and that supervisor’s manager were closely involved in that decision-making. The ICAC report found this was ‘less than ideal’ because both of these people were involved in the procurement strategy involving the selection of the provider of the software, and the supervisor had approved seven purchase orders exceeding $500,000 in that year.
The ICAC was satisfied that a more robust complaint handling and investigative process would have resulted in a formal disciplinary process being instituted at that time and that the corrupt conduct could have been prevented or at least identified earlier.
The report, which you can read here, includes 14 recommendations of a range of measures to prevent future similar corrupt activity.
The immediate learnings relating to ensuring agencies have effective complaint handling and investigations protocols in place are:
Ineffective management of complaints or conduct issues can easily result in wrongdoers not being held accountable for their actions. It also leaves organisations open to considerable reputational damage.
Incidents like the one above emphasise the importance of following up all complaints and undertaking independent investigations to ensure reports are thorough and there is potential for subsequent accusations of lack of impartiality or bias.
Centium provides investigation services to more than 100 organisations and has conducted more than 2,000 workplace and code of conduct investigations over the last two decades. Our Ethical Conduct & Investigations specialists are committed to assisting our clients to achieve and maintain a robust governance framework and an ethical workplace culture. We can investigate misconduct, review reports and provide practical advice to improve complaint handling systems and processes.
To learn how we can assist your organisation, please contact Peter Mulhall, Director, Ethical Conduct & Investigations on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0416 161 819 or browse Centium's Ethical Conduct & Investigations services.