ICAC public inquiries into alleged corruption concerning MPs, Australian Water Holdings and political donations

Tuesday 18 February 2014

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will hold a public inquiry commencing on 17 March 2014 as part of an investigation it is conducting concerning allegations of corrupt conduct involving public officials and persons with an interest in Australian Water Holdings Pty Ltd (Operation Credo).

The ICAC will also hold a public inquiry starting on 28 April 2014 into allegations that members of parliament corruptly solicited, received and concealed payments from various sources in return for favouring the interests of those responsible for the payments (Operation Spicer).

Operation Credo is examining whether between 2004 and 2012, persons with an interest in Australia Water Holdings Pty Ltd (AWH), its predecessors and its subsidiaries, obtained a financial benefit through adversely affecting official functions of Sydney Water Corporation (SWC) by inflating charges made to SWC and deliberately preventing SWC from ascertaining whether the charges were justifiable.

It is also alleged that in 2010, public officials and others were involved in falsifying a cabinet minute relating to a public private partnership proposal made by AWH, with the intention of misleading the NSW Government Budget Cabinet Committee and obtaining a benefit for AWH.

Further allegations include that in 2010, the then Hon Edward Obeid MLC, the Hon Joseph Tripodi and the Hon Anthony Kelly MLC misused their positions as members of parliament to attempt to influence public officials to exercise their official functions with respect to the AWH public private partnership proposal.

It is also alleged that on or about 20 November 2012, AWH chief executive officer Nicholas Di Girolamo and Edward Obeid Junior created a false deed of confirmation with a view to misleading the ICAC and any future investigation into whether the then Hon Edward Obeid MLC misused his position as a member of parliament to attempt to influence public officials to exercise their official functions with respect to the AWH public private partnership proposal.

The Commission will also examine the circumstances in which false corruption allegations were made against senior executives of SWC. Further, the Commission will examine the circumstances that led to the signing of the current contract between SWC and the successor to AWH.

Operation Spicer will examine whether, between April 2009 and April 2012, certain members of parliament including Christopher Hartcher, Darren Webber and Christopher Spence, along with others including Timothy Koelma and Raymond Carter, corruptly solicited, received, and concealed payments from various sources in return for certain members of parliament favouring the interests of those responsible for the payments.

The Commission is also examining whether, between December 2010 and November 2011, certain members of parliament, including those mentioned above, and others, including Raymond Carter, solicited, received and failed to disclose political donations from companies, including prohibited donors, contrary to the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981.

Further allegations include whether Eightbyfive, a business operated by Mr Koelma, and AWH, through its chief executive officer, Mr Di Girolamo, entered into an agreement whereby AWH made regular payments to Eightbyfive, purportedly for the provision of media, public relations and other services and advice, in return for which Mr Hartcher favoured the interests of AWH.

As it relates to Operation Spicer, the Commission is also examining the circumstances in which false allegations of corruption were made against senior executives of SWC (see also Operation Credo).

The ICAC will hold a directions hearing in both Operations Credo and Spicer on Wednesday 5 March 2014, commencing at 3 pm.

The directions hearing and the public inquiries will be held in the Commission's hearing room on Level 7, 133 Castlereagh Street, Sydney. The Operation Credo public inquiry is expected to run for two- to three weeks, and the Operation Spicer public inquiry is expected to take at least four weeks.

Commissioner the Hon Megan Latham will preside at the directions hearing and the public inquiries. Counsel Assisting the Commission will be Mr Geoffrey Watson SC and Mr Greg O'Mahoney.

Media contact: ICAC Manager Communications & Media, Nicole Thomas, 02 8281 5799 / 0417 467 801