Canada Bay City Council - allegations of corrupt conduct concerning City Services Manager (Operation Challenger)

Year: 2010 Status: Completed

The ICAC investigated an allegation that Hedley Peter Higgs, Manager of City Services at Canada Bay City Council, accepted payments from contractors engaged to conduct work for the Council, in return for showing favour to those contractors in the course of his work with Council.

In its report on this investigation, which was made public on 15 December 2010, the ICAC made findings of corrupt conduct against Mr Higgs and contractor Thomas David Turner.

The ICAC has stated its opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions be sought with respect to the prosecution of Mr Higgs and Mr Turner for various offences. The Commission has also made five corruption prevention recommendations to assist the Council to prevent similar conduct from occurring in the future.

Findings of corrupt conduct

The ICAC has found that former City of Canada Bay Council City Services Manager Hedley Peter Higgs engaged in corrupt conduct by accepting a boat and trailer worth $32,155 from Thomas David Turner in return for favouring Mr Turner's company in the awarding of Council contracts. The Commission also found that Mr Turner engaged in corrupt conduct by providing the benefits to Mr Higgs.

The Commission found that Mr Higgs also acted corruptly by soliciting and receiving money from Ezy Bobcat proprietor Ahmad Hraichie in return for disclosing to him how much he should quote to win a Council contract and in relation to other Council work.

Recommendations for prosecutions

The Commission must seek the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on whether any prosecution should be commenced. The DPP determines whether any criminal charges can be laid, and conducts all prosecutions. The Commission provides information on this website in relation to the status of prosecution recommendations and outcomes as advised by the DPP. The progress of matters is generally within the hands of the DPP. Accordingly, the Commission does not directly notify persons affected of advice received from the DPP or the progress of their matters generally.

The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP with respect to the prosecution of Mr Higgs for the offences of: receiving corrupt rewards from Mr Turner and Mr Hraichie, contrary to section 249B(1) of the Crimes Act 1900; giving false and misleading evidence, contrary to section 87(1) of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988; and fabricating a document with the intent to mislead the Commission, contrary to section 88(3) of the ICAC Act.

The Commission is also of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP with respect to the prosecution of Mr Turner for the offences of: giving a corrupt benefit to Mr Higgs, contrary to section 249B(2) of the Crimes Act; giving false or misleading evidence, contrary to section 87(1) of the ICAC Act; and fabricating a document with the intent to mislead the Commission, contrary to section 88(3) of the ICAC Act.

Peter Higgs

On Wednesday 14 November 2012, at the Sydney District Court, Mr Higgs pleaded guilty to four counts pursuant to section 87 of the ICAC Act for giving false and misleading evidence to the Commission. Two further offences contrary to section 87 were taken into account upon sentence.

Mr Higgs was given a good behaviour bond for a period of two years under the provisions of section 9 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. A 400-hour community service order was also imposed under the provisions of section 8 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.

Thomas Turner

On Wednesday 28 March 2012, Mr Turner pleaded guilty to two charges, being one count pursuant to section 87 of the ICAC Act and one count pursuant to section 80 of the ICAC Act. Two further offences contrary to section 87 of the ICAC Act were taken into account upon sentence.

On Friday 29 June 2012, a 400-hour community service order was also imposed under the provisions of section 8 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.

Recommendations for disciplinary action

As Mr Higgs resigned from the Council sometime after the public inquiry, the issue of taking disciplinary action against him does not arise.

Recommendations for corruption prevention

The ICAC has made the following five corruption prevention recommendations to assist the Council to prevent similar conduct from occurring in the future:

Recommendation 1

That City of Canada Bay Council (CCBC) staff be prohibited from using preferred or regular CCBC contractors to carry out private works, except in exceptional circumstances. In these circumstances, approval is to be granted by a senior manager.

Recommendation 2

That the CCBC develops methods to:

a. compel staff to justify their selection of preferred civil contractors
b. compel the creation of regular records concerning contractor performance and availability.

Recommendation 3

That the CCBC, as far as is feasible, ensures the function of rating contractor performance and availability is independent of the function of allocating work.

Recommendation 4

That the CCBC provides code of conduct and complaint process briefings to new contractors, and conducts regular compulsory briefings with existing contractors.

Recommendation 5

That the CCBC Audit and Risk Committee identifies high risk positions and, where practicable, rotates managers or places acting managers from outside the area into those positions on a regular basis.

As part of the performance of its statutory functions, the Commission will monitor the implementation of the recommendations made in this report. The recommendations will be communicated to the CCBC, with a request that a plan for their implementation be provided to the Commission. The Commission will also request a progress report and a final report on the implementation of the recommendations.

 

Implementation Plan

The implementation plan posted below has been provided by City of Canada Bay Council in response to the ICAC's corruption prevention recommendations. Its appearance here is for information only and does not constitute the approval or endorsement of the plan by the Commission.

Implementation plan

 

12 month progress report

The progress report posted below has been provided by City of Canada Bay Council in response to the ICAC's corruption prevention recommendations. It's appearance here is for information only and does not constitute the approval or endorsement of the plan by the Commission.

12 month progress report

 

24 month final progress report

The final progress report posted below has been provided by City of Canada Bay Council in response to the ICAC's corruption prevention recommendations. It's appearance here is for information only and does not constitute the approval or endorsement of the plan by the Commission.

24 month final progress report

Media Releases Witness

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Download the Witness List (PDF)

Transcripts

View all transcripts associated with this investigation. The Commission makes every effort to post the daily transcripts of its public inquiries on its website by 8:00 pm each day when possible. If the Commission sits later than 4:00 pm, the daily transcripts, particularly the afternoon session, may not be available until the next working day.

 

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