Lax supervision and poor managerial oversight enabled two former NSW public servants to pocket around $7.5 million in benefits by scamming roadwork project contracts over nine years, the NSW ICAC has found.
The report released on Tuesday makes a finding of serious corrupt conduct against former RTA/RMS employees Alexandre Dubois, who pocketed at least $6.7 million in corrupt payments, and Craig Steyn, who benefited to the tune of $744,000.
Other benefits provided to Mr Dubois included a number of luxury sports cars, while Mr Steyn received iPhones, iPads, payment for school fees, birthday parties and overseas travel, and housing materials towards the construction of his house.
Mr Dubois was a project manager of heavy vehicles programs within the Compliance Operations Branch of TfNSW’s Compliance and Regulatory Services Division and his colleague Mr Steyn was the heavy vehicle maintenance and average speed camera program manager.
The scam began to unravel in May 2018, when a whistleblower contacted a TfNSW hotline to report that Mr Dubois was awarding speed safety camera contracts to friends, and inflating the price of the contracts.
Further investigations resulted in a report being made to the corruption watchdog not long after.
Widespread procurement failures
After a 51-day public inquiry, the ICAC found Mr Dubois and Mr Steyn, along with 13 contractors, were involved in schemes relating to RTA/RMS contract work between 2010 and 2019. Ultimately, their corrupt conduct involved the awarding of more than $38.6 million worth of contracts over that time.
The situation was “indicative of widespread failures in the fundamentals of procurement and management which allowed such a situation to come about,” the ICAC said.
“The Commission found that there was insufficient procurement competence, limited assurance and accountability and inadequate record management,” Chief ICAC Commissioner John Hatzistergos said.
“This investigation also revealed issues with the broader control framework that were conducive to the corrupt conduct found, including: inadequate responses to reported conflicts of interest, limited staff management, chaotic budget management and insufficient support for suppliers making complaints.”
Red flags ignored
The commission found the RTA/RMS failed to do checks which would have alerted senior staff to what was going on, or at least raised red flags. And when questions were asked, they were never properly followed through.
The report says payments were often split to ensure they remained under price thresholds and avoided stricter procurement processes. The pair also submitted dummy quotes, inflated prices to skim off the excess and employed contractors who had no experience in road works contract management.
The ICAC also found evidence of nepotism, with work awarded to relations and friends of the pair.
The commission has referred Mr Dubois, Mr Steyn and 12 other people to the DPP for prosecution and possible criminal charges.
Since the beginning of the investigation, the NSW Crime Commission and Transport for NSW have recovered almost $4.7 million from the pair.
The commission has made nine corruption prevention recommendations to prevent similar activities occurring again.
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