Following a notification received in November 2015, IBAC commenced an investigation into allegations a former manager at the City of Ballarat Council subverted procurement processes to obtain financial advantage and failed to fully declare and manage conflicts of interest.
In November 2015, IBAC received a protected disclosure notification containing allegations of serious corrupt conduct involving a former manager at the City of Ballarat Council. Operation Royston investigated allegations that the manager subverted procurement processes and failed to fully declare and manage conflicts of interest when engaging suppliers (including his spouse and associates) on behalf of the Council.
IBAC's investigation established that between October 2013 and November 2015, the former manager unlawfully authorised payments by the Council totalling $184,123. Of this, he had a pecuniary interest in $55,885 paid to his wife and $128,238 paid to his associates. He also solicited and received secret commissions totalling $47,745.
The former manager pleaded guilty to obtaining financial advantage by deception, attempting to commit an indictable offence, and soliciting secret commissions. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and ordered to repay $31,200. His wife pleaded guilty to obtaining a financial advantage by deception and attempting to commit an indictable offence. She was convicted and fined $3000 and ordered to repay $20,500.
Further charges were laid against two of the former manager’s associates:
- One individual was accused of paying secret commissions to a council employee. This person pleaded guilty, was fined $8,000 and sentenced to 200 hours of community work.
- A second associate pleaded guilty to paying secret commissions to a council employee. They were found guilty without conviction, and fined $15,000.
Operation Royston identified a number of opportunities for the City of Ballarat Council to strengthen its policies and practices in relation to procurement.
In August 2020, the Council wrote to IBAC outlining actions it had taken to address the identified corruption vulnerabilities.
The investigation was the subject of a special report to Parliament in September 2019.