FILE PHOTO: Toowoomba City Hall.
FILE PHOTO: Toowoomba City Hall. Bev Lacey

Corrupt conduct uncovered among Toowoomba council officers

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INTERNAL investigations at Toowoomba Regional Council have substantiated allegations of corrupt conduct against five council officers.

According to a Toowoomba Regional Council investigations register obtained by The Chronicle under the Right to Information Act, five instances of corrupt conduct - ranging from water theft to leaking customer and confidential business information to a third party - have been investigated and substantiated by the council since July 2017.

The council officer who engaged in the theft of water was sacked after a two-month investigation, according to the register.

TRC CEO Brian Pidgeon confirmed the matter had been referred to the Queensland Police Service.

The register shows the employee who leaked confidential information to a third party was given a written reprimand.

Another officer who took sick leave when not sick and misused a council vehicle was formally cautioned and made to repay $10,483.60.

Disciplinary action was taken against a fourth employee who was "accessing inappropriate material over an excessive amount of time".

A fifth council officer quit after they were found to have been misusing a council vehicle by driving their children to school.

An allegation that a councillor was using their position to influence an outcome so as to receive a personal benefit was referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission in late September last year, but the commission advised the council in December that there was insufficient evidence to raise suspicion of misconduct.

According to a council report published on Wednesday, a total of 32 allegations of corrupt conduct have been made against the council since July 2017, with 21 investigations finalised and 11 under investigation.

A further four allegations of corrupt conduct have been made since The Chronicle revealed in February the extent of corruption complaints against Toowoomba Regional Council this financial year. 

Mr Pidgeon said council had a zero tolerance for corruption and fraud and was "committed to acting in the best interest of the community and upholding the principles of honesty, integrity and transparency".

"Council has a structured governance framework and an integrated approach to fraud prevention, detection and processes for responding to suspected fraudulent activity and corruption," he said.

"Council regularly assesses corruption and fraud risks to establish the level and nature of exposure to internal and external threats for all functions and operations.

"In cases where council has responsibility for applying discipline, council considers all circumstances including legal and industrial legislation before determining the level of discipline that is appropriate to the circumstances.

"If any councillor, employee or affiliate is suspected of engaging in, or participating in such conduct, the council and its officers are obliged by law to refer the matter to the relevant agency (ie Crime and Corruption Commission, Queensland Police Service, or Queensland Audit Office."

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