Under close questioning at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee today, Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll refused to reveal the exact cost to taxpayers of alleged corruption being uncovered by IBAC’s Operation Esperance but effectively admitted it exceeded $20 million.
Carroll and hapless Department of Transport Secretary, Paul Younis, appeared to concede they had not investigated the impacts and costs across V/Line, Metro and other entities.
Why didn’t the Department of Transport, confronted with overwhelming evidence of frank and systemic alleged corruption within entities funded by the department, order a full investigation and internal audit? Why wasn’t there a forensic audit?
James Pinder, the former CEO of V/Line, was forced out after the damaging IBAC hearings and allegations of corrupt conduct. Ben Carroll was forced to admit that Jeroen Weimar – now contact tracing supremo – was V/Line Board Chair at the time the corruption was uncovered externally by IBAC.
Breaching all principles of good governance, Weimar was also head of Public Transport Victoria (PTV), the commissioning body for V/Line. Mr Weimar needs to explain why more than $20 million of alleged corruption was not detected under his watch.
Mr Weimar in evidence to a Parliamentary Committee in 2017 praised Pinder in the following terms: “I think the approach that James and his team have taken has been absolutely right. We have taken a much more disciplined approach to maintenance and renewal work.” This praise must be seriously questioned in light of the IBAC hearings which revealed that Pinder’s approach was allegedly anything but “absolutely right”.
Secretary of the Department of Transport, Paul Younis, has to date not answered for his apparent failure to detect the alleged corruption despite it occurring on his watch.
This alleged corruption, now known to exceed $20 million is a blight the Andrews Labor Government and its senior officers must be held accountable for. Why was no forensic audit ordered? Why has Carroll been unable to say how much money was allegedly corruptly siphoned off? How can Carroll and Younis remain in their positions – or Jacinta Allan for that matter – when they presided over such alleged corruption on their watch?