Council loop holes leads to corruption

By Lilia Guan
Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has made 31 corruption prevention recommendations to Burwood Council and other local governments in New South Wales.
The recommendations were made following ICAC’s 17 corrupt conduct findings against the former general manager of Burwood Council, Pasquale (Pat) Romano on Wednesday.
Mr Romano was found to have engaged in corrupt conduct through a variety of actions including using his position at the council to engage conduct surveillance on a work colleague of his wife and then send the invoices for the work, which amounted to over $35000, to be paid by the council.
ICAC also stated Mr Romano 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 charged a $15485 invoice for this work to be paid by the council.
A spokesperson for ICAC told Government News Mr Romano was able to undertake the corrupt conduct by taking advantage of weaknesses in the controls applied to his position.
“It says that deficiencies in policies and other internal control systems; the absence of internal audit; gaps in complaint handling; the absence of protection from reprisals; and lack of councillor knowledge of their authority and responsibilities produced an environment conducive to corrupt conduct,” she said.
“The Commission 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.”
According to the spokesperson uundetected and unchecked corruption in the public sector (and this includes local councils) can cause serious damage including; undermining public trust in government; wasting public resources and money; causing injustice through advantaging some at the expense of others; inefficiencies in operations; and reputational damage which makes it difficult to recruit and retain quality staff or obtain best value in tender processes.
“It may also be more difficult or attract business investment, adversely affecting prosperity,” she said.
“Globally, the World Economic Forum has estimated that the cost of corruption is about US$2.6 trillion a year.
“Widespread corruption deters investment, weakens economic growth and undermines the rule of law.”
Since May last year, ICAC investigated corruption claims against five councils in New South Wales.
“The Commission is yet to release its report in relation to two of these matters into which public inquiries were recently held (involving Strathfield Council and Willoughby Council),” she said.


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