Redundancy payout to health executive despite graft probe
AN allegedly bent public health executive was given a taxpayer-funded redundancy despite the head of the department knowing he was under investigation for corruption.
Health director-general David Russell-Weisz revealed the highest ranks of the department were aware that John Fullerton was the subject of a probe by the Corruption and Crime Commission when he was given a voluntary severance in 2016.
He said the department would seek to claw back the value of the redundancy along with money that was paid to two other officials caught up in the investigation.
Dr Russell-Weisz yesterday defended the department’s actions during the seven years in which three executives allegedly took bribes and engaged in systematic fraud at taxpayers’ expense.
He said the men were “three bad eggs” in an overall workforce of 45,000 people and their “deceptive, deliberate and organised” conduct was aimed at avoiding detection.
Dr Russell-Weisz, who briefly oversaw the North Metropolitan Health Service where the three men worked, said the department had proper processes in place.
But he ultimately had to “trust” that officers would do the right thing.
“I am as shocked as many people will be,” he said.
“Appalled at what the CCC has found by the basically devious and corrupt conduct by three senior officers in one of our health services.
“They have found that behaviour and we will now clearly be sending that report on to the State Solicitors (Office).
“But it is an appalling read. This is deplorable, abhorrent behaviour.”
Although he declined to reveal how much Mr Fullerton had received under his severance — which was offered as part of a wider redundancy scheme — Dr Russell-Weisz said he was “obviously very uncomfortable that payments were made”.
Despite this, he said the department had been advised not to stop the payout while the CCC probe was under way for fear of compromising it.
Amid revelations by the CCC that contractors had “started to cultivate and groom potential new decision makers” ahead of Mr Fullerton’s departure, Dr Russell-Weisz conceded the department would invariably be vulnerable to corruption in contracting and procurement.
He noted the CCC’s findings that “it became, in that small area, sort of expected behaviour”.
He insisted corrupt practices were not widespread in Health, and would be “devastated” if other instances came to light.
He said the department would redouble efforts to “make sure this doesn’t happen again”.
“Certainly there are lessons to be learnt,” he said.
“We should be encouraging people to speak up.”