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ICAC finds $15,000 offer to secure Woollahra Council job corrupt

Thursday 12 August 2010

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (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.

In its report on the Investigation into attempted corrupt payment and submission of false resumes to public authorities, released today, the Commission found that Mr Gamage also engaged in corrupt conduct by submitting false employment histories and references to a number of local councils.

The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to prosecuting Mr Gamage for various offences, including in relation to publishing false and misleading documents to obtain financial advantage in his employment applications to various local councils, and others in relation to the $15,000 offer to Mr Blackadder.

The Commission notes that its investigation was assisted by Mr Blackadder's cooperation, and that Mr Blackadder acted appropriately at all times during this matter. On 31 October 2009, Mr Blackadder reported to the Commission that Mr Gamage had offered him $15,000 on 26 October that year in an attempt to secure the Director Technical Services position.

The Commission found that Mr Gamage had asked Mr Blackadder to act as his "agent" when he offered Mr Blackadder the $15,000, an offer that Mr Blackadder described as a bribe, and which he refused. Mr Gamage later told the Commission that Mr Blackadder had solicited the money from him, alleging that Mr Blackadder had said that he "could make it happen" if Mr Gamage paid him 10% of the salary package. The Commission rejects this claim, and is satisfied that Mr Gamage denied making the offer because he knew it was wrong. 

The Commission found that prior to applying for the position at Woollahra Council, Mr Gamage had provided false employment history and references when applying for senior engineering positions he successfully obtained at Cobar Shire and Coonamble Shire councils in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

The Commission found that Mr Gamage's resume falsification remained undetected because both councils failed to adequately check his employment application details. There was also too much reliance on his status as a member of Engineers Australia, which the Commission says did not conduct adequate checks of the information Mr Gamage provided. The Commission also found that Mr Gamage provided a false employment history for positions he applied for at various other local councils in regional NSW between 2009 and 2010.

The report says that evidence gathered by the Commission suggests that resume falsification occurs in around one-quarter of NSW public sector applications. "Given this, and the fact that Mr Gamage deliberately targeted rural councils because of the staff shortages the face, the lack of checking by these councils puts them at considerable risk of hiring inappropriately skilled or experienced staff," the report says.

The ICAC has made four corruption prevention recommendations to Cobar and Coonamble shire councils, most of which are relevant to all NSW public authorities. They include that adequate employment screening checks in line with the current Australian Standard on Employment Screening be performed on preferred applicants, and that the councils know and are satisfied with the verification checks performed by professional bodies before they rely on membership of them as evidence of a candidate's skills or experience.

The Commission held a public inquiry as part of this investigation over three days between 31 May and 2 June 2010, at which Commissioner the Hon David Ipp AO QC presided.

Investigation Report   Fact Sheet