Mate gets $2.6m deal
A STATE public servant improperly awarded or influenced $2.6 million in contracts to a mate, the Integrity Commission has found — with projects split into smaller contracts to dodge tender rules.
AN Education Department manager improperly awarded or influenced $2.6 million in contracts in favour of a mate in a highly-sophisticated end run around government purchasing rules, the Integrity Commission has found.
The Commission yesterday released its report of its investigation into allegations of a conflict of interest and breaches of procurement guidelines by the manager.
It found that the manager did not declare the friendship, and broke Education Department projects into a series of smaller parts to avoid having to go to competitive tender.
The two men went to school and college together, spent time together outside of work and considered themselves close friends. At one point the friend’s business wrote the specifications for work it tendered for, then won them at a price double that of other tenderers, the report said.
He subsequently formed another company.
“The new business … then provided a series of quotes for multimedia projects in response to briefs capped by the manager below $50,000, avoiding the necessity for open testing of the market,” the report said. “The manager accepted the quotes, resulting in payments of more than $500,000 to the new business in its first month of existence.
“The business was paid a total of $889,000 in the 2016 calendar year, almost $151,000 in 2017 and $62,000 in 2018.”
The commission did not name the manager — who has resigned from the public service — or the friend, saying the decision was in part to protect their privacy. It was not clear whether either would face criminal or civil action.
In 2017, in response to media inquiries about the tendering, the Department of Education assured the public everything was above board.
“An independent probity advisory from KPMG oversaw every step of the processes and endorsed they had complied with the procurement framework,” the department said.
Yesterday it said it took allegations of misconduct very seriously and had reported the matter to the Integrity Commission.