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ICAC finds former NGO principal officer corrupt

Wednesday 19 September 2018

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that Eman Sharobeem, the former principal officer of two non-government organisations (NGOs) established to assist immigrant women’s health and non-English speaking women’s housing needs, engaged in serious corrupt conduct by misapplying up to $773,000 in public funds to benefit herself and members of her family.

In its report, Investigation into the conduct of a principal officer of two non-government organisations and others (Operation Tarlo), released today, the Commission finds that, between 2007 and early 2016, Ms Sharobeem improperly exercised her official functions while service manager or chief executive officer (CEO) of the Immigrant Women’s Health Service (IWHS) and the person in day-to-day charge of the Non-English Speaking Housing Women’s Scheme Inc (NESH).

Ms Sharobeem’s conduct included arranging to obtain up to $443,000 through transfers of IWHS funds to her own bank account, to reimburse the cost of goods and services she had purchased for personal use, while knowing she was not entitled to such reimbursements. She also used IWHS funds for various other personal purchases and expenses, including $31,167.87 in payments to Sydney Water Corporation and the State Debt Recovery Office, $18,000 towards the purchase of a Mercedes car for her husband (and then arranged for NESH to reimburse IWHS), and $13,500 for personal jewellery.

Ms Sharobeem also improperly exercised her official functions to benefit herself by arranging for IWHS to pay $59,558.70 for work on her property at Fairfield, submitted $141,485 in invoices to IWHS that falsely claimed she and her sons worked there as facilitators, and transferred $3,000 from the NESH bank account to her own to reimburse herself for payments she made for her son’s medical procedure.

“The nature of her [Ms Sharobeem’s] misconduct was serious,” the report says. “This is because at the relevant time she was the head of an agency predominantly funded by public monies to provide important services to women and children in need, whose funds she deprived in large amounts motivated by greed to benefit herself and her family.”

The ICAC finds that Ms Sharobeem also engaged in serious corrupt conduct, between at least 2006 and 2016, by improperly exercising her official functions by falsely representing herself to be a qualified psychologist with a PhD in psychology, and providing psychological treatment to IWHS clients and patients referred to her. “Ms Sharobeem’s false pretences created significant risks to the community in that she saw vulnerable people who required psychological treatment from a qualified professional,” the report notes.

Ms Sharobeem also knowingly submitted false academic qualifications to the Community Relations Commission, and thereby obtained financial advantage by being appointed to the paid position of part-time Commissioner, and to the Anti-Discrimination Board (NSW), to be appointed as a paid board member.

The ICAC is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to the prosecution of Ms Sharobeem for various offences.

The Commission makes 12 corruption prevention recommendations to the South Western Sydney Local Health District and the Department of Family and Community Services, the two NSW Government agencies that substantially funded, respectively, IWHS and NESH. While the ICAC observes that reforms in recent years to the human services funding regime in NSW have improved the oversight of publicly-funded NGOs, it notes that the report and its corruption prevention recommendations provide a timely prompt for NGOs and their government funding agencies to assess whether the financial, administrative and governance controls they have in place effectively address the corruption risks in their operations.

The Commission held a public inquiry, as part of the investigation, commencing on 1 May 2017 that continued over 17 days from 1 to 15 May, 13 to 16 June, and 12 to 13 July 2017. Acting Commissioner the Hon Reginald Blanch AM QC presided at the public inquiry and 21 witnesses gave evidence. The report is available on the ICAC website at www.icac.nsw.gov.au.

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

Investigation report   Fact sheet