CMC report warns agencies about risk of workplace fraud

THE man convicted of defrauding Queensland Health of more than $16 million used the 2011 flood crisis to line his pockets with cash to shower colleagues with expensive gifts and overseas holidays.

The multi-million dollar scandal was uncovered in December 2011 and was the biggest single fraud in the history of the public sector in Queensland.

Earlier this year, Joel Morehu-Barlow was jailed for 14 years after pleading guilty to making 65 fraudulent transactions between 2007 and 2011.

A detailed Crime and Misconduct Commission report into the extensive fraud released yesterday warned all government agencies could harbour "high-risk employees" although not all would be as "flamboyant" as Barlow, a self-appointed Tahitian prince.

Crime and Misconduct Commission assistant commissioner Kathleen Florian said the report contained important information to help all public sector agencies and employees reduce the risk of fraud in their workplace.

"Barlow was a brazen and determined fraudster," Ms Florian said.

"All agencies will at some time encounter a high-risk employee intent on exploiting weaknesses in their systems.

"It is not enough for agencies to simply have appropriate policies and procedures in place.

"It is also crucial that staff understand and adhere to them and that managers identify and deal with non-compliance," she said.

Ms Florian admitted several "reg flags" were missed including by the Crime and Misconduct Commission who did not immediately act on an anonymous complaint made in August 2010 because it did not identify the extent of the fraud.

"There were definite shortcomings by Queensland Health, the Queensland Police Service and the Crime and Misconduct Commission," she said.

The report found that eight Queensland Health officers inadvertently helped Barlow pull off his fraud by failing to follow procedures.

Ms Florian said there was enough evidence to substantiate 24 misconduct claims against nine Queensland Health officers, including Barlow.

"It does seem extraordinary this fraudulent activity was not uncovered earlier," she said

"We have gone to great lengths not to identify those Queensland Health workers.

"They are not the subject of any criminal investigation.

"The CMC's misconduct investigation found he acted alone.

"It is now up to the director-general to determine what action, if any, he takes."

A spokesman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said one bureaucrat had already been sacked over the affair.

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