A new report by the state’s anti-corruption watchdog has found that the Victorian state government has pressured public servants to award party affiliates with profitable union contracts.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) released their findings on Wednesday, which claimed that senior staff in Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ government ensured that Labor Party allies were awarded the contracts without competitive tender.
IBAC revealed that staff members for the Premier’s Private Office (PPO) and health minister had breached their ethical obligations by pressuring health department officials to award these union contracts to the Health Workers Union (HWU) ahead of the 2018 election.
“The union was given privileged access and favourable treatment,’’ the report read.
“The combined effect of these failings and unethical conduct resulted in a contract that should not have been entered into with the union and an outcome which was not in the public interest.”
HWU was awarded a $1.2 million contract to provide specialist training to deal with occupational violence through an entity that was later found to be “not equipped”.
The training program was provided by a new entity called the Health Education Federation (HEF) – set up by the HWU – despite there being no competitive tender process, and HEF having no prior training experience.
The key concern IBAC had was with the behaviour of Jill Hennessy and Jenny Mikakos, who were advisors working for Premier Daniel Andrews and former health ministers prior to their departure from parliament.
The report claims that their behaviour “fell short of the required Victorian public sector standards” due to their involvement in the contract deals.
Premier Daniel Andrews had addressed the report at a press conference, stating that the report was not denouncing Labor Party officials, rather it was “educating about risks”.
“The staff members that are referred to in this report do not work for the government anymore and have not worked for the government for years. And of course, as you well know, the two ministers who are referenced in the report are not even members of the parliament any longer,” he said.
“Obviously I am accountable and fundamentally responsible for driving a process to consider those recommendations.”
“I will lead, as the chair of the cabinet, a cabinet process to consider those issues and we will respond in due course.”
The report made 17 recommendations towards the Victorian government and called to limit the power of minister advisers.
IBAC has requested that the government should report back on their response to these recommendations by October this year.
Photo: Australian banknotes in wallet by Martin Kingsley available HERE and used under a Creative Commons license. This image has not been modified.