Callahan and colleagues (2002)[i] suggested that organizations must focus on three trust-building tactics – accountability, reliance, and aspiration – to cultivate helpful internal whistleblowing procedures. These principles provide people and mechanisms to reach the outcome of an ethical organizational culture and help balance the need for profit with unbiased management of all organizational members.
Reliance is about employees being able to trust the written and oral polices and standards. A code of ethics must be in practice, not simply existing on paper. Employee participation in code development creates a code that is focused on the dilemmas most likely to occur. Central to this reliance is protection from retaliation, regardless of the issue or persons involved (Callahan et al., 2002).
Accountability, reliance and aspiration, the three trust building strategies of an ethical organisation. But, what is the reality in Australia? Well, I’m still looking for the Australian whistleblowers’ Nirvana. In my last post The death of Gary Lee-Rogers – the AFP and whistleblowers, I briefly looked at the outcome for Mr. Lee-Rogers when he opted to become a whistleblower from within the AFP/APS in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics. Far from finding himself in an ethical environment free of organizational ‘payback’, Mr. Lee-Rogers was fitted-up and sacked from his APS job in retaliation for blowing the whistle on APS corruption and mismanagement.
In the end, Mr Lee-Rogers would die a lonely and suspicious death in his Queanbeyan flat surrounded by allegations of murder, misconduct and mental instability. Interestingly, Mr Lee-Rogers death occurred soon after he complained of being beaten up by police, an allegation that prima facie has some evidentiary support. Mr Lee-Rogers believed that senior Federal Government officials were afraid of him “because of what I know and have exposed”.
If this were a one off occurrence one could and indeed might say “the man was mentally ill” or “what happened to him was merely an aberration, a glitch in the system”. But, unfortunately for the wellbeing of Australia’s democracy, this was not a one off, it was merely the tip of the iceberg.
Submarines, helicopters and the death of a whistleblower
Recently I was introduced to a young woman who found the body of her father after he committed suicide, a suicide that came on the back of her father being sacked from his Department for Defence job for blowing the whistle on corruption, incompetence and waste by the Department over the procurement and deployment of the Collins Class Submarines and the Seasprite helicopters. I think that every Australian is aware of the disaster that is the Collins Class Submarines. However, few may be aware of the disaster that is the Seasprite helicopter.
On March 5th, 2008 Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon cancelled the Royal Australian Navy’s $1 billion Seasprite programme. The Seasprite was a rather strange concept where second hand 1960s United States airframes were going to be upgraded by the RAN with 21st Century avionics. Predictably the outcome was an abject failure; the helicopters were unable to be operated reliably in poor visibility conditions and at night. Clearly the RAN was of the view that any threat to Australia’s territorial sovereignty would occur in daylight hours only. Australia’s version of the Schlieffen Plan; we all know how well that worked for Germany in World War One!
The point is that like Mr Lee-Rogers, this young woman’s father was driven to suicide because senior Federal Government officials were afraid of him because of what he knew and tried to expose. Another example of the Australian Public Service treating wistleblowers with respect and acting in good faith.
An interesting aside to this issue, a former drinking companion of the writer at the Willoughby Hotel and Australian Department of Defence (“DoD”) contractor working on the procurement of Australia’s Eurocopter Tiger’s was openly critical of the project on more than one occasion. He no longer contracts DoD. It is worth noting that like the Seasprite, the Eurocopter is over budget and behind schedule. The first Eurocopters were originally scheduled to enter service in 2004. Due to technical problems, operational capability is now not expected to be achieved before the end of 2012.
Perhaps Australia would be better served if the Government were to sub-contract our defence requirements to Serco. After all, Serco runs our immigration detention centres and some of our gaols – defence is the next logical step, is it not? That should solve the whistleblower issue in defence once and for all.
I’ll have some more to say about all of the issues I have raised under this sub-heading after I have received the fruits of my FOI requests and some other enquiries I’m making about the suicide of the DoD whistleblower mentioned above.
Letters from a bank and a corrupt government
Regular readers of Blak and Black will know about the issues pertaining to the sacking and prosecution by the AFP of the former Commissioner for ACT Revenue (“the Commissioner”). What readers may not be fully aware of is the nature and extent of the evidence that formed the basis of the Public Interest Disclosure (“PID”) referred to in the letter from Mr Chris Roberts Director of Investigations, Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office (“letter”).
The PID referred to in the letter was made by the Commissioner in late 2003 and placed into the in tray of the then Acting Under Treasurer, ACT Department of Treasury. The PID itself annexed two letters from Minter Ellison Solicitors (“Minter Ellison”) which referenced the subject of the PID. One of the Minter Ellison letters was addressed to their client, the ANZ Bank. The other was addressed to the client’s solicitors (“the client”). The client was the subject of the PID.
The first Minter Ellison letter to the ANZ Bank (“the Bank”) stated that the client had submitted a non-compliant tender and that the bank should advise the client of this immediately. This letter also advised the bank to encourage the client to bring their non-compliance to the attention of the ACT Government Solicitor as a matter of priority. The second letter addressed to the client’s solicitors advised them of the client’s non-compliance and stated that as a result the Bank was ceasing funding discussions.
The other document provided by the Commissioner to his superior, the Under Treasurer at that time, was a letter from the ANZ Bank manager at the centre of the negotiations stating that the client had forged ANZ letterhead and the manager’s signature in an attempt to induce the ACT Government into believing that the tender documents were compliant. This matter was referred to the AFP by the Commissioner. No action was taken by the AFP because the AFP doesn’t investigate complaints made by Indigenous Australians against non-Indigenous Australians.
The Commissioner sought the assistance of one of his legally trained staff, Mr Robert Lewis, in drafting the PID. Mr Lewis confirmed this to the AFP when he was interviewed in connection to the charges that the AFP subsequently brought against the Commissioner.
After lodging the PID in late December 2003, the Commissioner was accused by the ACT Department of Treasury of faking his qualifications (a similar charge was levelled against Mr Lee-Rogers when he submitted his PID on the AFP/APS) and sacked. The PID then disappeared and that is where matters rested until the Commissioner attempted to reopen the issues that were at the centre of the allegations contained in the PID.
In mid-2005 the Commissioner contacted a member of the ACT Legislative Assembly, Ms Jacquie Bourke and advised her of his concerns. Shortly after contacting Ms Bourke the Commissioner was charged by the AFP with falsifying his qualifications. The writer is willing to accept that the timing of the charges coinciding with the Bourke communications is nothing more than coincidental.
The next stage in this drama is that the Commissioner then brought the matter to the attention of the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office in the person of Mr Chris Roberts. Mr Roberts advised the Commissioner to resubmit his PID to him. This was done and inconceivably Mr Roberts promptly referred the PID to the then ACT Auditor-General Mrs Tu Pham, they very person the Commissioner was complaining about for not actioning the original PID, the very person who was acting in the position of Under Treasurer when the original PID was lodged. Unsurprisingly Mrs Pham found that there was no case to answer.
The Commissioner is a Wiradjuri. The issues that underpinned his lodging the PID in the first place together with the other issues he has raised about the theft and transfer of monies from ACT Treasury to the ALP are those of transparency and accountability.
A justification made by the white fella for invading Aboriginal Australia, massacring Aboriginal Australians, destroying Aboriginal Australian culture and stealing Aboriginal Australia’s land and resources is that they were bringing the ‘rule of law’ to Australia.
The ‘rule of law’ requires among other things, that laws are applied impartially, transparently and equally. This is not the case in Australia, where all the statistics show that white fella law is applied as harshly as possible to the black fella while the white fella exempts himself from the operations of his own laws. All the Commissioner was attempting to do was to require the white fella to apply his own laws to himself in the same manner as he applies them to the black fella. The Commissioner’s real crime was that he believed in the integrity of the system – for that he has been condemned.
There are a number of questions that remain unanswered in relation to the PID. What happened to the original that Mr Lewis helped the Commissioner write? Where are the working files? Why have the AFP refused to investigate any complaints made by the Commissioner? Why would the client have needed to forge a letter from the Bank if everything was aboveboard? Why would Minter Ellison have felt the need to write the above mentioned letters if one of the firm’s partners did not believe that there was a problem? Why did the Commonwealth Ombudsman refer the PID to the officer at the centre of the suppression allegations? Why have the AFP continuously refused to investigate this fraud?
Dodgy qualifications, forged time-sheets and whistleblowing
Stupid is the word that immediately springs to mind at this point. How stupid was it for the Commissioner to bring attention to himself by lodging a PID when he had got his job by using dodgy qualifications? How stupid was it of Mr Lee-Rogers to bring attention to himself by lodging a PID when he had got his job by using dodgy qualifications? How stupid was it of the DoD employee mentioned above to bring attention to himself by lodging a PID when he had got his job by using dodgy qualifications? Either all these people are stupid, or dodgy qualifications are the preferred charges of the AFP when they want to discredit someone in Australia in the same way that Child Sex Tourism is the preferred charge when the AFP wants to discredit an Australian citizen living overseas!
To be fair, in the three cases mentioned under this heading the AFP added things like forged time-sheets, child pornography and allegations of deviant homosexuality into the mix. Nothing like a bit of smut to totally discredit an opponent – just ask Craig Thompson!
While we’re on the subject of dodgy qualifications, it is interesting to note that the AFP, for all their exhaustive investigations, were unable to produce one other original application for the Commissioner that matched the one that he claims was altered within ACT Treasury in order to discredit and sack him! What is also interesting is that the Commissioner had published his curriculum vitae on the Internet in 2000, some four years before he was fitted-up and sacked from ACT Treasury. His published CV did not match the one produced by ACT Treasury. The Commissioner was obviously a stupid bastard, that’s why he became the Commissioner!
Also of interest is the fact that all three people mentioned under this heading were long time employees, employees who had achieved recognition from within their respective organisations before those organisations suddenly found out that they were all really dodgy bastards – but, only after they had submitted PID’s!
As a final salute to the AFP and dodgy qualifications, in 2006 a senior reporter at the Canberra Times advised me that he had details of an officer in the Commonwealth Department of Finance who was found to have fudged her qualifications. Not only was this person not prosecuted by the AFP, they were not even sacked. Why? Presumably because this person had not submitted a PID!
Talk about double standards!!!!
Current Developments in the ACT regarding ‘white’ wistleblowers
The following was published in the Canberra Times on 24 August, 2011.
The ACT Government could be held in contempt of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal over efforts to hide information in the case of a public service whistleblower.
Lawyers for the Government were told in the tribunal yesterday that their ”purported” compliance with tribunal orders in the Debbie Scattergood affair could constitute contempt of the ACAT.
But the legal team for the Government, which bills itself as a model litigant, told ACAT member Louise Donohoe SC that it made an honest mistake in blacking out vast passages in reports after it had been ordered by the tribunal to release the documents in full to its former employee.
Ms Scattergood, a former Territory and Municipal Services worker, is still fighting to be allowed full access to official documents about her treatment by public service management after she exposed waste and mismanagement on a $16million contract.
The Canberra Times revealed this month that official investigations found that Ms Scattergood had been bullied and harassed out of her job at TAMS after making public interest disclosures about contract management.
The fight has left Ms Scattergood physically ill and facing mounting legal bills, which currently stand at more than $22,000, incurred in the struggle to clear her name.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has now ordered a full review of the matter, probably by the Auditor-General, and she has also instructed her bureaucrats to pay Ms Scattergood’s costs.
In the tribunal yesterday, Ms Donohoe said that her orders that TAMS release to Ms Scattergood two official reports by consultant Henry Price about her public interest disclosures and subsequent battles with her employers had not been obeyed by the department.
Under the orders, the department was only allowed to black out the names and whereabouts of workers where it was necessary to protect their privacy. But the tribunal member and senior barrister said that not only did the department fail to provide the un-redacted reports, it blacked out even more sections of the report before handing them over.
It is interesting to note that while the white wistleblowers from TAMS get their legal costs paid by the ACT Government, the black wistleblower from Treasury was forced to the point of bankruptcy. It’s an equal society in which we live!
An aspect of the modern public service which I intend to explore in an upcoming post is that of public servants manipulating facts to curry favour with their political masters. Pursuant to S.16 of the Public Service Act 1999 this type of conduct would or could be viewed as being corrupt conduct, yet many, many public servants have built their careers on this type of conduct. It is this type of conduct that has allowed the Children Overboard Affair, the AWB scandal the WMD scandal and the invasion of Iraq, the RAMSI debacle and corruption at AUSTRAC to go unpunished.
It is my intention to keep exposing public sector corruption and racism until one of our political leaders has the ‘balls’ to deal with it.
[i] Callahan, E.S., Dworkin, T.M., Fort, T.L., & Schipani, C.A. (2002). Integrating trends in whistleblowing and corporate governance: Promoting organizational effectiveness, societal responsibility, and employee empowerment. American Business Law Journal, 40(1), 177-236.