We have been snooping around the net looking for “corruption” and discovered that the NSW Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) discovered that three former, corrupt, WorkCover NSW officers issued thousands of fake work licences and has recommended that the DPP consider prosecuting 18 people involved in their distribution.
Corrupt WorkCover employees may put workers’ lives at risk
ICAC also made 19 recommendations for WorkCover to improve its management and monitoring of the licensing system to minimise the opportunities for corrupt conduct in the future.
ICAC’s investigation found that 23 people engaged in corrupt conduct. These included three former WorkCover employees, 16 distributors of false certificates and four applicants for false licences.
It found that one senior licensing officer in the Licensing Unit had alone produced many hundreds of false certificates that her de facto husband actively distributed and sold throughout the construction and other industries, with the aid of others.
The Commission heard how demand for the false certificates had spread by word of mouth at pubs and on construction sites, creating a “snowballing effect” that resulted in a network of distributors and many hundreds of recipients.
ICAC recommended that the DPP consider prosecuting two of the former WorkCover employees and the 16 people who distributed the licences.
It said in its report that bypassing and/or abusing the OHS regulatory system, as the false issuing of certificates of competency threatened to do, “had the potential to cause enormous damage to workers, to the projects they were working on and to the general public”.
WorkCover system is deficient
ICAC also examined the adequacy of WorkCover’s management practices and the systems associated with issuing the certificates (and BTW we are sure these are not the only “bad practices”).
It found a number of deficiencies, including sharing of log-on details and passwords; lack of supervision and control in approving and printing certificates; and lack of reconciliation between certificates issued and application fees received.
It made 19 recommendations to WorkCover to prevent further corruption, including that it:
- develop an audit mechanism and regime to detect excessive multiple mail-outs to single addresses and ensure that its record-keeping procedures minimise the number of missing and misfiled documents;
- introduce an automatic expiry of password and identification function for temporary employees;
- implement a two-person approval process for changes to licence holders’ details;
- implement as a matter of priority processes to enable the application fees received for certificates of competency to be reconciled against the numbers of certificates issued;
- develop and implement a Conflicts of Interest Policy and provide regular training in conflicts of interest for all employees;
- conduct regular assessments of the risks of fraudulent conduct in the Licensing Unit, and amend its fraud risk management plan in line with these findings; and
- develop as a matter of priority a fraud and corruption control plan.
How it all started
WorkCover first became aware of anomalies in the issuing of certificates by one employee in the first half of 2004, and reported it to ICAC.
In a separate incident in July 2004, following a request from a certificate holder to have his name corrected, WorkCover discovered that many certificates had been issued in a name that didn’t correspond with any employee.
WorkCover announced an amnesty in 2004 to allow workers who had obtained false certificates to come forward.
It then announced inspectors would visit construction and other sites in a compliance program to crack down on the fraudulent certificates.
This was the second ICAC inquiry to find that fraudulent certificates had been issued.
You can report corruption via the ICAC’s website and perhaps it is time for us -injured workers – to start reporting everything that smells!