Corruption raises its ugly head in Australia’s technology sector


Paying in cash

blog As some of you may have noticed, last week The Age newspaper published an expose on dodgy dealings at Leighton Holdings subsidiaries Silcar and Visionstream. The newspaper alleged, and Leighton has substantially verified, that staff from Visionstream were suspected of aiding Silcar staff in stealing Visionstream tender files relating to a $240 million contract to deploy Optus’s 4G network, which the two contractors were competing to bid. I’ll have a separate article on that situation shortly.

But what you may not realise is that this not an isolated incident. Over the past several years, as I detail in a lengthy examination of the issue on Delimiter 2.0 today (subscriber content), there’s been multiple instances of unethical and suspect behaviour in major Australian technology contracts. A sample paragraph from the article:

“… what we’re seeing here is that the IT industry has the motivation to engage in unethical practices in major IT contracts, because of the vast sums of money involved. It has the opportunity, because the controls around such contracts weaken due to the inherently innovative nature of the projects. And often there are a small number of individuals or firms with specialist knowledge that can actually do the work. Couple this with the historically poor project governance we’ve so often seen in the IT industry in Australia, particularly in the public sector, and bingo: You’ve got unethical practices potentially leading towards out and out corruption.”

I’m not kidding around here, folks. The examples of this kind of behaviour are starting to pile up. We particularly know of examples in government, due to the obligation which auditors and ombudsmen have to publish reports on the issue, but the Silcar/Visionstream example clearly shows that this kind of activity is taking place in the private sector as well. And that’s not good. This kind of thing needs to be curbed before it gets out of hand.

Note: I am not alleging that the particular example from Silcar/Visionstream constitutes corruption. However, it is clear that this kind of unethical behaviour, left unchecked, could lead to corrupt practice. We’re talking about events along a theme, even if not all of them are in the same ball park in terms of seriousness.