ICAC finds former Burwood Council General Manager corrupt

Wednesday 20 April 2011

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has made 17 corrupt conduct findings against the former General Manager of Burwood Council, Pasquale (Pat) Romano, and recommends that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should be obtained with regard to the prosecution of Mr Romano for several offences.

In its report on the Investigation into alleged corrupt conduct involving Burwood Council's General Manager and others, released today, the Commission makes 31 corruption prevention recommendations, noting that Mr Romano was able to undertake the corrupt conduct detailed in the report "by taking advantage of weaknesses in the controls applied to his position". Some of the recommendations are made to Burwood Council, while others are made to the NSW Government to help improve systems in local government across the state.

The ICAC found that Mr Romano engaged in corrupt conduct through a variety of actions including using his position at the Council to engage IPP Consulting Pty Ltd for personal purposes to conduct surveillance on a work colleague of his wife, and knowingly causing the invoices for the work, which amounted to over $35,000, to be paid by the Council. Mr Romano also used the company to conduct surveillance on candidates for the 2008 council elections, although he knew this fell outside the proper performance of his functions as the General Manager, and knowingly caused the $15,485 invoice for this work to be paid by the Council.

Other corrupt conduct findings include failing to manage appropriately his conflict of interest in the recruitment to Council of his friend, Albert Becerra, and in the payment of $41,400 to Mr Becerra above his contracted remuneration. Mr Romano also acted corruptly by procuring work on units in which he had a personal interest from Council officers during Council time, selling his Council car without first purchasing it and misleading the Council about the sale price of the car, and taking adverse managerial action against four Council whistleblowers.

The ICAC recommends obtaining the DPP's advice with respect to the prosecution of Mr Romano for offences including four of giving false or misleading documents to the Council with intent to defraud the Council, four common law offences of misconduct in public office, an offence of obtaining financial advantage by false or misleading statements, two offences of causing detrimental action to be taken against a person who made protected disclosures, three offences of causing or procuring disadvantage to persons for or on account of those persons assisting the ICAC, and two offences of providing false or misleading evidence to the Commission.

As Mr Romano's contract as General Manager has been terminated, the issue of taking disciplinary action against him does not arise.

The Commission's corruption prevention recommendations include that the NSW Division of Local Government be authorised through legislative amendment to require NSW councils to adopt policy and practice considered to be of state-wide significance by the Division's Chief Executive. The ICAC also recommends that the NSW Minister for Local Government seeks legislative amendment to the Local Government Act 1993 to establish internal audit for local authorities as a statutory function.

Other recommendations include that Burwood Council policies should be amended to prohibit the General Manager from having any involvement or giving directions to staff in relation to any formal complaints where he/she is the subject of the complaint. The Council should also develop a policy for the payment of appropriate out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the General Manager and other employees, and should include protocols in the policy that explicitly prohibit the General Manager or any other Council employee from approving expenses where there is an actual or perceived personal benefit derived from the expenditure.

The Commission held a public inquiry as part of the investigation, which commenced on 22 March 2010 and continued for 26 days. After an adjournment, the final two weeks of hearings commenced on 24 May 2010 and finished on 11 June 2010.

Assistant Commissioner Theresa Hamilton presided at the public inquiry, at which 22 witnesses gave evidence.

Media enquiries: ICAC Manager Communications & Media Nicole Thomas 02 8281 5799/0417 467 801

Media

Fact sheet

Investigation report