New corruption scandal hits 14 NSW councils

By Julian Bajkowski

The local government sector in New South Wales has been rocked by the findings of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) probe released today that has found 41 people participated in corrupt conduct, with many now council employees and officers now likely to face prosecution.

The corruption watchdog has found that “22 employees or former employees of 14 local councils and another public authority in NSW engaged in corrupt conduct” by accepting gifts and other largesse suppliers to win business as well as creating false invoices to mask payments.

Code-named Operation Jarek, the sting found that council staff accepted “holidays, TV sets, camcorders, DVD players, iPads, iPhones, coats and gift vouchers” as inducements to win or maintain business.

Councils whose employees were named in the ICAC investigation report include: Ballina Shire Council,  Bathurst Regional Council, Broken Hill City Council, Burwood Council, Byron Shire Council,  Council of the City of Botany Bay, Council of the City of Sydney, Lithgow City Council,  Liverpool City Council,  Narrandera Shire Council,  Orange City Council, Walgett Shire Council, Waverley Council and Yass Valley Council. Employees of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority were also named as having engaged in corrupt conduct.

On the supplier side, staff of Hilindi Pty Ltd, Momar Australia Pty Ltd, NCH Australia Pty Ltd and Universal Cartridges Pty Ltd were found to have engaged in corrupt conduct.

ICAC has also strongly suggested that as big as its local government sting is, the problem of employees taking gifts and kickbacks could be far more extensive than just the examples it has named and shamed.

“From the outset of the ICAC's investigation, it became apparent that the provision of incentives by businesses to public officials in NSW was widespread,” the Commission said in a public statement.

“Given the sheer scale of the alleged corrupt conduct and the finite resources and time at the ICAC's disposal, the ICAC decided to focus its investigation on the conduct of employees of 15 of the 110 public authorities in NSW whose staff were alleged to have received gifts from suppliers,” ICAC said.

The timing of the releases of the ICAC’s finding is especially awkward NSW councils, most of which have sent representatives to Dubbo this week for the annual conference of Local Government Association of New South Wales.

State Local Government minister Don Page was scheduled to have opened proceeding on Sunday night, with Planning minister Brad Hazzard slated to address delegates on planning reforms on Monday morning.

The O’Farrell government is facing a backlash from many local governments on whether or not it will keep its key election promise to return many land use planning and zoning approval powers to local governments.

A statement issued on Monday 29th of October spruiking reforms, Mr Hazzard said that  “councils can finalise a range of Local Environmental Plan amendments, including spot rezonings, heritage proposals and the reclassification of some public land.”

However the new arrangements also contain a controversial mechanism whereby “proponents seeking a rezoning can now request an independent review of decisions through the local Joint Regional Planning Panel if a council has refused or failed to respond to their rezoning request.”

Mr Hazzard’s statement said that a Planning Circular from his department explaining the changes will be issued to councils today.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

6 thoughts on “New corruption scandal hits 14 NSW councils

  1. As the urban sprawl continues,it is time ‘children’ had a representative on regional planning panels and in planning departments.There just isn’t any vision of the needs of youngsters for play,recreation and learning.

  2. Get rid of all council local elections and run councils with professional administrators appointed by govt.
    This is the only way to rid our councils of failed real estate agents!!

  3. These breaches are clearly officers, not councillors. NSW needs to focus upon systems and processes to lift the professionalism of procurement in councils. This includes sourcing professional procurement staff and giving them the power and resources to train and implement proper systems of control.

    If it means centralising the procurement tools and processes until councils are mature enough to manage this, then so be it. Clearly some are not mature enough at this time.

    This reflects poorly on local government throughout Australia and those states with it under control are sick of being tainted by those who have not addressed it. Use a heavy hand and fix it.

  4. Looks like low level corruption is endemic. A good reason to amalgamate councils and put all procurement through properly scaled and governed operations with strict probity supervision. Ditto for all other aspects of Council business.

  5. It is important to keep such events in perspective. This investigation relates to a very small proportion of the many people who work in more than 150 local councils in NSW. In the same period that ICAC was carrying out it’s investigation, thousands of people went quietly about their jobs in childcare, libraries, cleansing, recycling waste, organising events, engineering, planning, dealing with social needs, answering inquiries, collecting rates, and protecting the environment in local government areas in NSW. Let’s celebrate their positive contribution to the health and wellbeing of all our communities!

  6. I have a suspicion that my council the building side is not treating the honest rate payer with honest answerers and actually ignoring requests for information regarding niegbours building with out the proper DA approvals. The builder skiting that he had special contacts in the building industry. And he seams to be getting away with murder so to speak. I live on the Northern Beaches. How does one complain abaut such a suspicion. I do have written information from council via the freedom of information, and two council officers are saying something different. Two of the builder’s private certifiers even agreed that the builder was not following specifications.So the council officer asked the builder to get another report from some professional to say it was structurally sound. The fact that the builder had undermined my property by excavating under my path to fit his blocks leaving empty gaps under my surface was part of the compliance. I am sure that their is some specification in building a retaining wall if the builder has excavated more than a meter from the original ground level. We need to know how the wall is being built to protect us from sliding down.

    Originally council had fined him and was ordered to remove it. The builder abused us for having been fined. He did not remove it and was threatened to be taken to the Dep. Of Land and Environment. I hear a rumour that One of the certifiers went bankrupt and the Council Officer that was dealing with issue originally has not been available to speak to me. I have been eluded since last April 2012

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required