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ICAC finds government property database misuse corrupt

Thursday 3 November 2011

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that a contract valuer, her father and two associates engaged in corrupt conduct by accessing a Land and Property Management Authority (LPMA) property database without paying the prescribed fees and knowing that they had no right to do so.

In its report on the Investigation into the misuse of access rights to a Land and Property Management Authority database, released today, the Commission finds that valuer Kim Hildebrand provided her father Greg Hildebrand and her associates at Addisons Valuation Services, co-directors and shareholders Angus Algie and James Smith, with access to the database via the username and password she had been supplied when she was undertaking valuation services at another company for which she worked, Westlink Consulting Pty Ltd.

Westlink had an agreement to provide valuation services to the NSW Valuer General. It employed Ms Hildebrand and Timothy Fleming to provide the necessary services and both were given access to databases maintained by Land and Property Information (the LPI, which was then part of the LPMA) so they could access the necessary information to provide the valuations.

The LPI provides certain land title information to members of the public for a prescribed fee. The information includes copies of strata plans, copies of deposited plans, copies of registered dealings on title and title searches. The Commission received a report from the LPMA in November 2009 alleging that the database access provided to Ms Hildebrand and Mr Fleming had been misused to download approximately 74,000 strata plans with an estimated value of $822,000.

Ms Hildebrand ceased working for Westlink as an Assistant Valuer on 30 April 2009, by which time she had commenced work as a contract valuer for Addisons. Although Ms Hildebrand stopped working for Westlink, her access to the LPI database was not terminated. Ms Hildebrand claimed that she provided Mr Algie with access to the LPI database so that he could ascertain the nature of the information available to those contracting to the Valuer General to provide valuation services. The Commission, found, however, that Ms Hildebrand provided Mr Algie with access to the LPI database so that he could use it to obtain information, on  a needs basis, which was relevant to  the operation of his valuation business. Mr Algie admitted that he provided Ms Hildebrand's access details to his staff and instructed them to use it for this purpose.

Mr Algie also admitted that between 20 April 2009 and 5 November 2009 Addisons' staff downloaded about 74,000 strata plans contained in the LPI database using the access details provided by Ms Hildebrand. This was done so that Addisons could obtain a complete set of strata plans that would then be available to use for its valuation business. He said, however, that he never told Ms Hildebrand that he was accessing the database for this purpose and Ms Hildebrand denied knowing that Mr Algie used it for this purpose. The Commission accepted their evidence about this.

In September 2009, Ms Hildebrand's access to the LPI database was terminated. Upon discovering this, Ms Hildebrand emailed Mr Fleming's access details to Mr Algie, which she had obtained while she and Mr Fleming worked together at Westlink. She admitted that she did not have Mr Fleming's permission to do so, and gave the same reason for providing his details as she had in relation to her own access details. Ms Hildebrand also downloaded 25 strata plans from the LPI database between 23 September and 5 November 2009 using the access details of another of her fellow workers at Westlink.                                                                                                                                          

The ICAC is satisfied that Ms Hildebrand provided the access details in order to further her job prospects at Addisons. The Commission is also satisfied that Ms Hildebrand provided her access details to her father, being generally aware of the property-related nature of his business interests, so that he could access information from the LPI database relevant to his business interests without having to pay the prescribed fee; Mr Hildebrand estimated that he used his daughter's access details between 500 and 1,000 times.

The ICAC found that responsibility for managing information security risks was not clearly defined, and that the LPI did not adequately monitor contractor usage of its database, or cancel access once contractors had ceased working for the LPI. The Commission therefore makes 11 recommendations to the LPI to prevent such conduct from recurring.          

The ICAC is satisfied that Ms Hildebrand did not know or contemplate that Mr Algie would use the LPI access in an attempt to download the entire database of strata plans. Ms Hildebrand also gave evidence that it is likely that as a result of her conduct she will lose her accreditation as a valuer. The loss of accreditation and the findings of corrupt conduct will have a detrimental effect on her future employment prospects in a field in which she has worked and studied. The Commission is satisfied of the likelihood that these circumstances will deter Ms Hildebrand from engaging in this conduct in the future and therefore is not of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in relation to prosecuting Ms Hildebrand for any offence.

Given the lack of sufficient admissible evidence, the Commission is not of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP in relation to prosecuting Mr Algie, Mr Smith or Mr Hildebrand for any offence.

The Commission held a public inquiry, as part of the investigation, over two days on 15 and 16 June 2011. The ICAC Commissioner, the Hon David Ipp AO QC, presided at the public inquiry, at which five witnesses gave evidence.

Investigation Report   Fact Sheet

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