How the freebies flowed
Wednesday, 5th October, 2011
By Lauren Farrow
SYDNEY - Whiskey, coats, camcorders, holidays and iPods were just the tip of the iceberg when it came the slew of gifts on offer to council officials, the NSW corruption watchdog has heard.
On the first day of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry yesterday, it was alleged that staff from 88 councils and 22 government agencies pocketed the gifts when placing large orders with suppliers.
“In one case an official received three iPhones delivered to his home address over a period of seven months,” Steve Campbell SC, council assisting the commissioner said in his opening address.
“The public official, often on a modest income, appreciates the benefits and obliges ... placing further orders whether the goods are required by his employer or not.”
A sales representative for wholesaler R&R Tape - one of the three suppliers under scrutiny - described how Liquorland gift vouchers, Driza-Bone jackets and DVD players were used to create customer loyalty.
Martin Slade said that when he tried to sell Bob Vayne, from Byron Shire Council, boxes of safety gloves, Mr Vayne allegedly asked “What’s in it for me?”.
“And what was in it for him?” Mr Campbell, SC, asked.
“A hundred dollars worth of vouchers,” Mr Slade replied.
The commission heard the company would often sell products at a higher price, or not offer a discount on goods, in order to cover the cost of the kickbacks.
The kickbacks were outlined in a series of “freebies books” from 2000 to 2009.
“It was the done thing, so I just carried on,” Mr Slade said.
Paul Goldin, sales representative for Momar Australia, told how his company had a brochure of “give-aways” to offer clients.
These ranged from company pens and mugs to Coles Myer Vouchers, iPod shuffles, GPS systems and DVD players.
When questioned by Mr Campbell, Mr Goldin agreed that he had given gift vouchers amounting to about $3350 to staff from Burwood council, $2250 to staff from City of Botany Bay Council, $2100 to Liverpool Council, $5600 to staff from City of Sydney and $5750 worth to staff from Waverley Council.
“Due to the amazing success of the Coles Myer Voucher we have decided to continue this promotion indefinitely,” read a letter issued to Momar staff in March 2006.
“The vouchers may only be sent to the customer’s home address. Happy selling!”
The inquiry, which is one of ICAC’s biggest in its history, follows a two-year investigation codenamed Operation Jarek.
The investigation, Mr Campbell said, uncovered more than $116,000 in gifts, with the total “apparent corruption” totalling over $1.5 million.
Among the 110 public authorities under the microscope are the NSW Police Force, Department of Health, Energy Australia, RailCorp, the Roads and Traffic Authority, Sydney Water and Taronga Zoo.
The three suppliers are R&R Tape Supplies, Momar Australia and NCH Australia.
“This culture of the giving and receiving of incentives has been so pervasive that one can have no confidence that we have accurately outlined the full extent of its reach,” he said.
The hearing, before Commissioner David Ipp QC, continues. - AAP