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30 November 2011 | Angeline Albert
Public sector purchasers in Western Australia were persuaded to pay over the odds for goods they didn’t need.
A report by the Corruption and Crime Commission revealed that central and local government buyers in Western Australia were bribed and bullied into purchasing too much toner cartridge product from a supplier during a three-year period.
The commission’s investigations found the supplier “used aggressive sales techniques to pressure junior purchasing officers into buying quantities of toner cartridges that their organisations often did not need”.
Public sector buyers paid up to five times more for toner cartridges than the price available through government arrangements, which resulted in AUS$ 415,000 (£266,575) of wasted funds. Each cartridge could only print an average of 7,400 pages despite buyers being told they could print 30,000. And one public sector agency estimated it had enough toner to last up to five years even though the cartridges have a shelf life of about two years.
The report said buyers often received gifts from the supplier as a result of the deals, including digital camcorders, LCD TVs and coffee machines. The commission’s director of corruption prevention, Roger Watson, said in most cases employees did not report these gifts. “Generally the gift policies and accountability mechanisms for public authorities did not sufficiently address the misconduct risks,” he said.
Watson said staff involved have not been named because “the problem was widespread across the state and local government sectors and was due to failing to adhere to policies and procedures”.
The commission’s recommendations included recording gifts received and regularly auditing the purchasing decisions associated with those gifts, implementing robust procurement policies and training for procurement staff.