ICAC finds Service NSW officer corrupt over improper access of restricted database information and other conduct

Tuesday 11 May 2021

ICAC finds Service NSW officer corrupt over improper access of restricted database information and other conduct

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found Service NSW customer service officer Diana Benyamin engaged in serious corrupt conduct by agreeing to alter records held by the agency in exchange for a benefit.

In a report released today, Investigation into the conduct of a Service NSW officer (Operation Mistral), the Commission finds that Ms Benyamin engaged in serious corrupt conduct on 5 January 2019 by agreeing with Fahad Al-Dakak, a friend she had known since high school, to effect the transfer of a motor vehicle registration in return for a financial benefit. On that date, Ms Benyamin also provided Mr Al-Dakak with the wording for a false statutory declaration to facilitate the registration transfer along with instructions concerning how he could ensure she was the customer service officer who dealt with the transaction.

Ms Benyamin further engaged in serious corrupt conduct by agreeing with Mr Al-Dakak that she would supply him with the address of a motor vehicle from the Driver and Vehicle IT System (DRIVES) restricted database in return for a financial benefit. On 30 May 2019, Ms Benyamin improperly accessed the personal information of an individual and intentionally disclosed the personal information to a family member, knowing that it was wrong to do so. The information included the individual’s residential address and the licence plate number of his vehicle.

Further, Ms Benyamin engaged in serious corrupt conduct on 17 July 2019 by intentionally and dishonestly causing another Service NSW customer service officer to access the DRIVES restricted database about the original purchase price paid by a seller for a vehicle purchased by Ms Benyamin’s sister on behalf of her father, and having that officer provide that information to her. Ms Benyamin then disclosed to her sister the price originally paid by the seller of the vehicle.

The Commission finds Mr Al-Dakak engaged in serious corrupt conduct through his roles in offering the financial benefits to Ms Benyamin, and agreeing that she would prepare the false statutory declaration.

While Ms Benyamin did not ultimately receive any benefit, the Commission finds that what she and Mr Al-Dakak were contemplating was wrong. “It would involve compromising a citizen’s right to privacy,” the report says. “It was inconsistent with Ms Benyamin’s obligation and that of her employer to retain personal information securely, to keep it confidential, and otherwise to use such information only for the purpose for which it was provided.”

The report notes that Service NSW had some measures in place to manage risks. The Commission’s investigation, however, highlighted two areas of significant risk at the agency – the risk of access to information and the risk of serving family and friends.

The Commission found that Service NSW’s quality control framework failed to adequately address the misuse of information risks, and the agency had misplaced confidence in the effectiveness of its controls.

The Commission makes four corruption prevention recommendations to help Service NSW prevent the conduct identified in the investigation from recurring, including that it implements a risk-based system designed to improve detection of unauthorised access of personal information.

The Commission also recommends that Service NSW provides clear guidance on the circumstances where managers can consider allowing an employee to perform transactions in DRIVES for a family member or friend. It should also establish a single electronic family and friends register to operate across all service centres to more easily facilitate comparison of information between centres to help detect: circumstances where customer service officers have acted partially towards family or friends; and anomalous or inconsistent recording of transactions involving family and friends across centres.

The Commission seeks 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 is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP with respect to the prosecution of Ms Benyamin and Mr Al-Dakak for various offences. The Commission also states that Service NSW should give consideration to the taking of disciplinary action against Ms Benyamin.

The Commission did not hold a public inquiry in this investigation; after taking into account matters set out in section 31 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, the Commission determined it was not satisfied it was in the public interest to hold a public inquiry, but that the matters raised in the investigation could be addressed satisfactorily through a public report pursuant to section 74(1) of the ICAC Act.

Investigation report

Fact sheet