Watchdog delivers findings in state corruption probe

Premier Annastacia's Palaszczuk's former right-hand man did not properly declare his business interests while working in her office, the corruption watchdog has found.

And text messages have been uncovered that "clearly create the perception" he intended to use his influence to help out his business.

 

The Crime and Corruption Commission has released its report into former chief-of-staff David Barbagallo and allegations he engaged in corrupt conduct by misusing his position to obtain $267,500 in taxpayer funding for his company Fortress Capstone and an app it was developing.

Its investigation found Mr Barbagallo's declaration of interests forms he is required to complete and provide to the Premier for review were not signed or dated by Ms Palaszczuk.

David Barbagallo speaks with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk during estimate hearings in 2019. File picture
David Barbagallo speaks with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk during estimate hearings in 2019. File picture

However, it says: "The fact that none of Barbagallo's Declaration of Interest forms have been signed and dated by the Premier does not establish that Barbagallo did not submit these documents for her review, or that the Premier did not review these documents."

"As the Premier stated during the 2019 Parliamentary Estimates hearing and later told the CCC, she confirmed sighting Barbagallo's Declaration of Interests forms.

"There is no evidence to prove otherwise."

The CCC had been assessing corruption allegations surrounding the $267,000 taxpayer-funded grant for a cruise ship app being developed by Fortress Capstone - a company Mr Barbagallo had been a director of since 2007.

The co-investment by the state government's Advance Queensland Business Development Fund was revealed in July 2019 during estimates hearings.

Mr Barbagallo had denied any wrongdoing and has previously said he declared his interest as required and withdrew his involvement in the application process when he joined the Premier's office in 2017.

The public revelations saw Ms Palaszczuk engage Ernst & Young to audit the grant and deliver its findings to her Director-General, Dave Stewart in August last year.

But the Opposition referred the matter to the CCC, which considered the Ernst & Young report before announcing that "further inquiries need to be made".

Mr Barbagallo resigned from Ms Palaszczuk's office in September 2019.

The government has previously promised to make the audit report, and its cost, public once the investigation was over.

But the CCC did find a series of text messages between Mr Barbagallo and the Fortress Capstone chief executive that "clearly create the perception that Barbagallo intended to use his position as Chief of Staff to assist Fortress Capstone advance their agenda within the cruise ship industry, which would subsequently benefit Barbagallo's financial holdings in the company".

The investigation also found that Ms Palaszczuk incorrectly stated that Mr Barbagallo had sought Integrity Commissioner advice regarding his business interests and other matters.

Despite Mr Barbagallo also maintaining he did seek her advice, the CCC could not find any records of the advice, which must be given in written form.

"Barbagallo did not follow through in obtaining advice from the Integrity Commissioner," the report found.

"Barbagallo did not 'get Integrity Commissioner advice' as stated by the Premier."

The CCC has made five recommendations stemming from its investigation, including that declaration of interests forms be amended to include a signatory section where the staffer's supervisors confirms they have read it, and a person is appointed to review all forms are signed before being filed.

"Conflicts of interest pose a significant corruption risk in the public sector, particularly when conflicts of interest are not properly identified, documented, managed and monitored," the report says.

Another recommendation put forward is that a standardised conflict of interest form be implemented to be used by ministerial staff to record "actual, potential and perceived conflicts of interest".

The watchdog also suggests that a conflict of interest register be implemented to record a staff member's conflict of interest.

"The register should also document any management plans implemented to manage the conflict of interest," the report says.

The CCC also recommended that consideration be given to law changes that would impose an obligation on a person to disclose any advice received from the Integrity Commissioner to their supervisor.

They say this would be to ensure any actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interests are "appropriately managed and monitored".

"This should include all advice about whether a conflict of interest is identified or not," the report says.

 

 

 

Originally published as Watchdog delivers findings in state corruption probe


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