Public officer claimed $500k in false overtime

A senior West Australian health employee boosted her $120,000 salary by more than half a million dollars by falsely claiming overtime, the state’s corruption watchdog say.

Clinical Trials Manager Judith Innes-Rowe also took 125 days off without submitting leave forms – resulting in a $65,000 payout for untaken leave when her employment with the North Metropolitan Health Service (NHMS) ended.

The WA Corruption and Crime Commission launched an investigation into Ms Innes-Rowe after NMHS notified it in December 2018 of $508,413 worth of claims she had made over a five year period between 2012 and 2017.

Ms Innes-Rowe, who had worked at the Clinical Trials Unit at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital for 23 years, ended her employment at NHMS that year amid recommendations of disciplinary action.

But the following year she was re-employed in a new position that was created for her.

Failures of managerial oversight

The CCC report  says failures of managerial oversight allowed Ms Innes-Rowe to bypass official processes. Her overtime claims,  it says, were effectively “approved by manager inaction”.

It also slammed deficiencies in the $4.3 billion a year payroll system, which was managed by HSS payroll – a separate statuory authority – saying it was 30 years old and used approximately 40 forms.

The risks highlighted by the investigation were open to exploitation by any employee in the WA public health sector using the same payroll system, the CCC said.

The CCC said it had formed an opinion of serious misconduct in relation to both Ms Innes-Rowe’s overtime claims and her unauthorised absences resulting in a false final leave payout.

It also said the investigation had uncovered stystemic risks resulting form dated technology and lack of managerial vigilance.

Employees at risk of misconduct ‘fit profile’

The report says individuals involved in serious misconduct often conform to a profile. When opportunity coincides with greed or financial pressure for these individuals, serious misconduct can result.

“Those who fit the profile will generally be very intelligent, a part of the executive, middle management or their trusted support staff. They may have control issues and an unwillingness to share their duties with others. They may be secretive, with a sense of entitlement arising from longevity. ‘The rules don’t apply to them’.”

Initial success in falsely gaining a benefit can often set up a pattern of behaviour.

“Individuals rarely engage in misconduct on only one occasion. They may even consider their behaviour to have been endorsed by its success.
“Strong internal controls, detection strategies and effective oversight are the best defence against serious misconduct and corruption,” the CCC said.

The human resources department in an organisation is vulnerable to fraud, the CCC said, and the findings of the current investigation are relevant to all government departments with large payroll responsibilities.

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