Compromising relationship lands public servant in hot water

West Australia’s corruption watchdog has issued a strong warning about the need for public servants not to let personal matters compromise them after making findings against a department of mines employee who became romantically involved with the owner of a consultancy.

Sarah Jane Bellamy, an environment reform manager with the department of Mines and Petroleum, stole confidential documents and emailed ministerial correspondence to the environmental services provider, the WA Crime and Corruption Commission found.

Ms Bellamy also arranged for the company, Soil Water Group, to provide services, and authorised payments for work that hadn’t been carried out to the value of $24,000.

Before leaving the department in 2017 she received a love heart emoji text message saying saying ‘Hi Love, how’s the afternoon going and the rape and pillage of data for your own personal benefit?’ to which she replied, ‘I am copying contacts as we speak’, the report said.

Need to declare conflicts of interest

The report “underlines the need for public servants to ensure personal matters do not compromise their commitment to the best interests of the WA community, and the need to make an early declaration of potential conflicts of interest,” the CCC said.

“Her behaviour shows the need for ongoing vigilance and oversight of procurement, even when relatively low amounts are involved. It also shows the need for an early disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. Had there been an early disclosure, the problem may not have escalated.”

The CCC said Ms Bellamy, who had developed the department’s Abandoned Mines Program and was involved in procuring services from consultants and authorising payments, had acted corruptly and engaged in serious misconduct on at least three occasions.

While working for the department, she became involved with Soil Water Group’s owner Adam Pratt, who she initially met in a professional capacity but who later moved in with her.

She also became involved in the “active management” of Mr Pratt’s company under an “unofficial arrangement”.

Ms Bellamy also failed to declare her conflict to the department and gave misleading information about the relationship when asked about it, the commission found.

The CCC said Ms Bellamy sent confidential departmental information to Mr Pratt, including a copy of a ministerial note attached to an email saying “I thought you might find this useful/interesting. Highly confidential of course”.

She also “actively collected documents to take with her when she left the department”.

The CCC was alerted to the case by the Public Sector Commission and the department.

The CCC noted that its finding of serious misconduct was not a finding or opinion that Ms Bellamy was guilty or had committed a criminal offence.

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