ICAC finds City of Canada Bay Council employee corrupt

Wednesday 15 December 2010

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that former City of Canada Bay Council City Services Manager Hedley Peter Higgs acted corruptly by accepting a boat and trailer worth $32,155 from Thomas David Turner in return for favouring Mr Turner's company in the awarding of Council contracts.

The Commission found that Mr Higgs also acted corruptly by soliciting and receiving money from Ezy Bobcat proprietor Ahmad Hraichie in return for disclosing to him how much he should quote to win a Council contract and in relation to other Council work.

In its report on the Investigation into the acceptance of corrupt benefits by a City of Canada Bay Council employee, released today, the Commission found that Mr Higgs also engaged in corrupt conduct by arranging for Mr Turner to do free work at his house in return for favouring Mr Turner's company, Jet Civil Pty Ltd (formerly Ozzie Pools Pty Ltd) in the awarding of Council work. The Commission found that Mr Turner engaged in corrupt conduct by providing the benefits to Mr Higgs.

The Commission is of the opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) be sought in relation to the prosecution of Mr Higgs for various offences including receiving corrupt rewards from Mr Turner and Mr Hraichie, giving false or misleading evidence to the ICAC and fabricating a document with the intent to mislead the Commission.

The Commission is also of the opinion that the advice of the DPP be sought in relation to the prosecution of Mr Turner for various offences including giving a corrupt benefit to Mr Higgs, giving false or misleading evidence to the ICAC, and fabricating a document with intent to mislead the Commission. The Commission is satisfied that the document in question, an invoice dated 15 December 2009 which was actually created by Mr Turner at Mr Higgs request in April 2010, was intended to show that the work Mr Turner did for Mr Higgs in December 2009 had been properly billed to, and paid by, Mr Higgs at that time.

The Commission found that Mr Higgs had solicited $6,000 from Mr Hraichie and received at least $4,000 from him in return for disclosing to Mr Hraichie the amount he should quote for contract work on the Council's Wareemba Village project. The investigation came about after Mr Hraichie made allegations to the Council's General Manager and Mayor that Council contractors had made corrupt payments to a Council officer. The allegations were subsequently reported to the ICAC by the General Manager.

The Commission is satisfied that without Mr Hraichie's allegations and evidence, the corrupt conducted that Mr Higgs and Mr Turner engaged in would not have been exposed. The Commission has therefore decided to exercise its discretion not to make a finding of corrupt conduct against Mr Hraichie, or seek the opinion of the DPP with respect to prosecuting him for any specified criminal offence.

The Commission has made five corruption prevention recommendations to assist the Council to prevent similar conduct from recurring in the future.  The recommendations include that Council staff be prohibited from using preferred or regular Council contractors to carry out private works, except in exceptional circumstances approved by a senior manager. The ICAC also recommends that Council's Audit and Risk Committee identifies high-risk positions and, where practicable, rotates managers or places acting managers from outside the area into those positions on a regular basis.

The Commission held a public inquiry as part of the investigation over four days in July 2010, at which Commissioner the Hon David Ipp AO QC presided and 13 witnesses gave evidence.

Investigation report

Fact sheet