Woollahra Municipal Council – allegations of corrupt conduct involving offer of payment to the Council (Operation Avoca)

Year: 2010 Status: Completed

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) conducted an investigation into whether Sisira Kumara Kumaragamage Don (also known as Don Gamage), engaged in corrupt conduct by offering a payment to secure employment at Woollahra Municipal Council.

In its report on this investigation, which was made public on 12 August 2010, the ICAC made findings of corrupt conduct against Mr Gamage.

The ICAC has stated its opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions be sought with respect to the prosecution of Mr Gamage for various offences. The Commission has also made four corruption prevention recommendations to Coonamble Shire Council and Cobar Shire Council, most of which are relevant to all NSW public authorities, to minimise or prevent similar conduct occurring in the future.

Findings of corrupt conduct

The ICAC has found that Don Gamage engaged in corrupt conduct by offering $15,000 to Woollahra Council recruitment consultant Stephen Blackadder in an attempt to secure employment as Director Technical Services at the Council. Mr Gamage also engaged in corrupt conduct by submitting false employment histories and references to a number of local councils.

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 ICAC is of the opinion that the advice of the DPP should be sought with respect to the prosecution of Don Gamage for:

• an offence under section 249B of the Crimes Act 1900 in relation to the offer of $15,000 to Stephen Blackadder
• two offences under section 87 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 in relation to giving false evidence at his compulsory examination and the public inquiry by denying that he had offered $15,000 to Mr Blackadder
• two offences under section 178BA of the Crimes Act in relation to publishing of false and misleading documents with the intention of obtaining a financial advantage in his applications for employment to Lithgow City Council, Harden Shire Council, Goulburn Mulwaree Council, Bland Shire Council and Upper Lachlan Shire Council
• an offence under section 192G of the Crimes Act in relation to dishonestly publishing a statement that was false or misleading in a material particular with the intention of obtaining a financial advantage in his application to Lachlan Shire Council
• an offence under section 80(c) of the ICAC Act of misleading a Commission officer.

Mr Gamage is being prosecuted for one count of corruptly offering a reward pursuant to section 249(2) of the Crimes Act; two counts of knowingly give false and misleading evidence pursuant to section 87(1) of the ICAC Act; one count of hindering an officer of the ICAC pursuant to section 80(a) of the ICAC Act; seven counts of make false statement with intent to obtain advantage pursuant to section 178BB of the Crimes Act; and one count of make false statement with intent to defraud pursuant to section 192G of the Crimes Act.

On 20 October 2011, the Downing Centre Local Court issued an arrest warrant for Mr Gamage.

 

Recommendations for disciplinary action

Mr Gamage's employment application to Woollahra Municipal Council was not successful. Therefore, the Commission makes no recommendations in relation to disciplinary action.

Recommendations for corruption prevention

The ICAC has made the following four corruption prevention recommendations to Coonamble Shire Council and Cobar Shire Council to minimise or prevent similar conduct occurring in the future:

RECOMMENDATION 1:

That Cobar Shire and Coonamble Shire councils ensure that:

a) adequate employment screening checks are performed on preferred applicants in line with the current Australian Standard on Employment Screening (AS 4811-2006) and

b) applicants for positions complete a form indicating that:

  • they consent to employment screening checks being conducted upon them

  • the information provided in support of their application is true and

  • they acknowledge that any employment or offer of employment may be withdrawn if they have provided false information in support of their application.

This recommendation is relevant to all NSW public sector agencies and the Commission will write to public authorities to make them aware of it.

RECOMMENDATION 2:

That Cobar Shire and Coonamble Shire councils engage the use of an employment screening company if they are recruiting senior staff and are having difficulty in verifying the information supplied by the preferred applicant.

This recommendation is relevant to all NSW public sector agencies and the Commission will write to public authorities to make them aware of it.

RECOMMENDATION 3:

That Cobar Shire and Coonamble Shire councils ensure that they know and are satisfied with the:

a) verification checks performed by professional bodies before they rely on membership of them as evidence of a candidate's skills or experience and

b) process used in relation to a migrant skills assessment before they rely on that assessment as evidence of a candidate's skills or experience.

This recommendation is relevant to all NSW public sector agencies who deal with professional bodies and the Commission will write to all public authorities to make them aware of it. 

RECOMMENDATION 4:

That Coonamble Shire Council and Cobar Shire Council:

a) obtain consent from employment applicants to verify memberships or other status that they claim to hold with professional bodies and

b) ensure that this consent has been provided to these professional bodies.

This recommendation is relevant to all NSW public sector agencies who deal with professional bodies and the Commission will write to public authorities to make them aware of it.

 

Implementation Plan

The implementation plans posted below have been provided by Cobar Shire Council and Coonamble Shire Council in response to the ICAC's corruption prevention recommendations. Their appearance here is for information only and does not constitute the approval or endorsement of the plans by the Commission.

Cobar Shire Council - Implementation Plan

Coonamble Shire Council - Implementation Plan

 

12 month progress reports

The progress reports posted below have been provided by Cobar Shire Council and Coonamble Shire Council in response to the ICAC's corruption prevention recommendations. Their appearance here is for information only and does not constitute the approval or endorsement of the plans by the Commission.

Cobar Shire Council - 12 month progress report

Coonamble Shire Council - 12 month progress report

 

24 month final progress report

The final progress report posted below has been provided by Cobar Shire 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.

Cobar Shire Council - 24 month final progress report

Coonamble Shire Council - 24 month final progress report

 

Media Releases Witness

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. 

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.

 

Exhibits Public notices