Fraud and corruption in the public sector divert public funds from those who most need the support of public services. This type of offending is a high priority for the SFO.
Our public sector’s corruption-free reputation delivers to the economy a competitive advantage, through business confidence, as the real and perceived cost of doing business here is lower than for many of our trading partners and competitors. New Zealand has always been ranked at or near the top of the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, for its low levels of public sector corruption. However, there is a growing consensus that the risk of corruption in New Zealand is increasing and that it may be more pervasive than is generally acknowledged. While numbers remain minimal overall, the number of bribery and corruption related complaints and investigations has increased in recent years.
RASILA & CHAND
This corruption case involved the manipulation of an Auckland Council procurement process for financial gain. The defendants’ actions were corrupt and deceitful. Their criminal behaviour jeopardised the reputation of the council and the wider public sector.
As an employee of the council, Sundeep Rasila accepted a bribe to secure a $140,000 Auckland Council contract for businessman Sunil Chand, who Mr Rasila previously knew. As a result of the offending, Mr Chand’s business On Time Print, which was awarded the contract, made a profit of approximately $58,000. Mr Rasila accepted a $7,500 kickback from Mr Chand for helping On Time Print to secure the contract for the delivery of computer accessories (USBs) to the council. As a council employee, Mr Rasila was required to disclose the nature of his relationship with Mr Chand and his business, but he never did this.
Mr Rasila pleaded guilty to corruptly accepting a kickback as a council employee, while Mr Chand admitted paying the bribe in return for his company being awarded the Auckland Council contract. Mr Rasila was sentenced to five and a half months’ home detention for corrupting a council procurement process for financial gain. Mr Chand was sentenced to six months’ community detention.t o
This case involved a prominent Māori performing arts educator using her leadership positions in several organisations to fraudulently obtain $1.3 million of public funds. Donna Mariana Grant defrauded Tertiary Education Commission, a Crown agency, and Te Whare Wānanga o wanuiārangi, a tertiary education provider.
The offending was a significant breach of trust. The defendant’s actions were criminal and damaged the reputation of several organisations. Mrs Grant did not use the misappropriated funds to benefit herself financially, but to help charitable organisations that she was involved in.
Mrs Grant was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention, which was a significant reduction from a starting point of four years’ imprisonment. The starting point was discounted due to several mitigating factors which included that Mrs Grant had demonstrated genuine remorse, had pleaded guilty and during her lifetime she had made an enormous positive contribution to the community.u
In 2017, Stephen Borlase was sentenced to five years six months’ imprisonment and Murray Noone to five years’ imprisonment for corruption and bribery offences totalling $1.2 million. The verdict and sentencing followed a seven-week trial in Auckland. It was New Zealand’s largest bribery case. Barrie George had earlier been sentenced in 2016 to 10 months of home detention for a lesser role in the same offending.
The offending took place between 2006 and 2013 at the former Rodney District Council and Auckland Transport. Over the seven years, Mr Noone had, concurrent with senior management roles in road maintenance, regularly invoiced engineering consulting company Projenz over $1 million for consultancy services there was no documentary evidence he had ever provided. He had also taken inappropriate gifts. The payments and gifts were undisclosed. Projenz had been set up by Mr Borlase. It had obtained numerous council road maintenance supply contracts during the seven years.
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT
Joanne Harrison, former General Manager of Organisational Development at the Ministry of Transport, was imprisoned in February 2017, for three years’ seven months. Ms Harrison had fraudulently obtained approximately $726,000 from her employer by creating invoices to pay three entities linked to the offending. The money was used to pay off personal credit cards and the mortgage on a property she had purchased in 2008. Ms Harrison left the country in 2016 after the fraudulent invoices were discovered and transferred the ownership of the property in its entirety to her husband. She returned from Canada to face charges.