ICAC recommends more transparency

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has made recommendations designed to make Strathfield Council’s methods of dealing with claims of impropriety more transparent after a businessman sent an envelope containing $2,000 in cash.

The Commission made six recommendations after the matter was reported by Council General Manager David Backhouse.

In a public report, ICAC found that David Pyo’s kum il bong on December 2 last year was more than a cultural Christmas gift. It said, “Mr Pyo intended, or expected, that Mr. Backhouse would ... achieve a favourable outcome to the licensing agreement negotiations.”

Independent Councillor Paul Barron said, “It’s good to know we have such an honest general manager. Honesty ensures a council in good financial standing and creates a respect in the community.”

“[But] there’s always a bit of tweaking to be done in councils. I’m sure David [Backhouse] is looking into the ICAC recommendations and he’ll take it from there.”

ICAC recommended a council campaign stating “that corrupt acts such as bribery or other inducements are not acceptable and will be reported to the Commission”.

Some documents and correspondence were unavailable during the ICAC investigation, and the investigative body suggested Council conduct a “compliance audit of its record management systems against the requirements of the State Records Act 1998 ... [And] the training of all council staff involved in the EOI process.”

The ICAC was also concerned about a lack of an independent evaluation of the property prior to the EOI process; and that Pyo’s submission was 47 days late. It requested “clear guidance ... on the circumstances surrounding late submissions.”

Pyo’s late submission was soon preferred to other recommendations for its superiority amongst poor competition. Good submissions were not recruited – even Pyo himself learnt of the tender from an on-site notice. The report recommends that council should “specify the types of EOI that must be advertised in a Sydney metropolitan newspaper as well as in the local press and on its website.”

The wash-up from the now infamous envelope is a more transparent council. The warnings to the community are clear: attempted bribes will be referred to ICAC.

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