Published: 18th December 2008

The NSW Fire Brigades has taken significant steps to prevent corrupt practice, including introducing more stringent capital works tender assessments, financial approvals and contractor recruitment practices, Commissioner Greg Mullins said today.

"The NSW Fire Brigades has zero tolerance for any degree of corrupt behaviour by any personnel at any level of our organisation," he said.

"Such behaviour is unacceptable and I am committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure the Brigade has the procedures in place to prevent corruption."

Commissioner Mullins said the Fire Brigade had referred the issues with contractors in its Property Services Branch to the ICAC for investigation.

"As soon as it was discovered that two Property Branch contractors had a conflict of interest, I commissioned an independent investigation, notified the ICAC and began implementing changes to prevent this sort of behaviour in future," he said.

"We have cooperated fully and openly with the ICAC investigation and will now examine its recommendations in detail with a view to addressing any areas which we have not already targeted."

Commissioner Mullins said while the findings of corruption had related to the conduct of contractors, not NSWFB staff, inadequate practices and procedures had allowed the corrupt behaviour to take place.

"Tougher policies and procedures are now in place to make the organisation corruption-resistant," he said.

He said the Fire Brigade had engaged independent experts from IAB Services and the Department of Commerce to identify ways to improve its property management and reinforce its fraud and corruption prevention practices, ethical standards and corporate governance.

"Once this problem was uncovered, we immediately set about reinforcing and improving our systems and practices to ensure this kind of thing could not happen again," he said.

"I expect the highest ethical standards from every single employee and contractor, who should all be aware that anything less is unacceptable to me, the Government and the community."

Fire Brigade corruption prevention initiatives introduced to date include:

  • Developing more rigorous budget allocation processes;
  • Tightened electronic and manual tender lodgement processes to ensurethe integrity and confidentiality of tenders;
  • All staff involved in tender evaluation sign a declaration that they have no conflicts of interest;
  • The tender evaluation panel must give written reasons for the choice of the winning tender;
  • The Project Development Manager reviews the tender evaluation process before a contract is executed;
  • A probity auditor will be used, as required, such as on large or complicated projects;
  • Increased checks, including ASIC checks, to determine the veracity and financial resources of tenderers;
  • Successful tenderers must provide details of major sub-contractors to be used on projects;
  • The Department of Commerce has been contracted to manage a number of building projects;
  • Workplace Conduct programs are being provided for staff to reinforce expected behaviour and new management programs are being developed;
  • The NSWFB Audit Committee is chaired by an independent, external representative;
  • Increasing the use of approved project manager as contractors from the Department of Commerce’s pre-qualified panel of contractors
  • Recruitment companies providing contract staff have been made aware of the higher level of transparency and record keeping required in the NSW public sector and, this is reinforced with all contractors;
  • Reinforced with recruitment agencies that recommended contractors should be thoroughly vetted before being referred to the NSWFB; and
  • New fraud and corruption prevention and conflict of interest policies developed.