Queensland Health begins recovery of missing millions

By Lilia Guan
Queensland Police has arrested a 36-year-old man wanted for questioning over alleged fraud related, the embezzlement of up to $16 million dollars from Queensland Health.
Queensland premier Anna Bligh said the arrest of Mr Hohepa (Joel) Morehu-Barlow was “just the beginning”, in recovering the money that was stolen.
Premier Bligh announced the disappearance of millions of dollars from the Department of Health, on the 9 December.
At the time she said no stone would be left un-turned to apprehend a Queensland Health employee suspected of a multi-million fraud of public funds.
Ms Bligh said an independent forensic audit of Queensland Health’s accounts by both Clayton Utz and KPMG found the case may be the most serious case of fraud in Queensland’s Public Administration history.
It is thought that sums of money that appeared to be transferred to external service providers were actually being transferred to a private account.
“It is suspected that this individual has embezzled up to $16 million with one payment of $11 million stolen in the last two weeks alone,” said the Premier.
“If the allegations are true this man has defrauded all of Queensland and he will face the full force of the law.
She said any system is at the mercy of a dishonest person but if it is shown that there are problems with government processes that allowed this money to be stolen, make no mistake, heads will roll.
“I am furious that something like this could happen. I am furious at the individual and, if there have been structural failings that allowed this to happen; I will tear those structures down,” she said.
“Like all government departments – Queensland Health’s accounts are audited annually by the Auditor General.
“An independent audit will detect any weaknesses in the corporate governance system and it can also be used in any future legal proceedings.
“Police have informed me that a large amount of money can be recovered and substantial amounts of cash, a number of luxury cars and a property have already been restrained.
“We will leave no stone unturned in order to recover every cent we can for the Queensland taxpayer.”
As for the system that allowed Mr Morehu-Barlow to take advantage of the department in the first place, Premier Bligh said it was “unacceptable”.
“It is unacceptable that this could happen and we are working to close any loopholes that exist,” she said.
“The courts will deal with Mr Morehu-Barlow and we will deal with the system that allowed him to think he could get away with it.”

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