MFB nepotism feathered family nest: Victorian Ombudsman

 
Monday 19 June 2017
 
A case of nepotism so blatant as to beggar belief has been uncovered at the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board by a Victorian Ombudsman investigation.
 
A manager falsified documents and her two sons changed their names in order to be employed without declaring the familial relationship.
 
The matter involved back-room administration staff rather than frontline firefighters.
 
That employment cost the public purse more than $400,000 over a number of years. MFB have indicated their intention to refer the conduct to Victoria Police.
 
“Some cases I have investigated over the years seem so unlikely you could not make them up. Except, as in this case, they did.
 
“The facts of the case are that a senior public official at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade hired her son, not declaring the relationship, having falsified his CV and coached him prior to interview, three weeks after he changed his name to conceal the relationship.
 
“After giving him a pay rise and moving him into a permanent role, she then hired her second son, also falsifying his CV and “interviewing” him at her home after he, too, had changed his name to conceal the relationship,” said Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass.
 
Ms Glass said her office regularly encountered cases of nepotism, but that they rarely displayed such calculated behaviour:
 
“Often the cases are minor, although wrong. Not this time, this was a case of deception where the family nest was feathered, plain and simple.”
 
Acknowledging that this case involved conduct very difficult for organisations to detect, Ms Glass said the case demonstrated the need for public sector leaders to ensure they create an environment in which conflict of interest policies are embedded in the organisational culture.
 
“Although all three subjects are no longer in the public sector, I am tabling this report to expose both the reality and the danger of such behaviour. Even the most stringent policies cannot prevent what occurred in this case. But while the agency in this case cannot be held responsible for the deception perpetrated upon it, its conflict of interest policies were weak, and did not reflect best practice.
 
“The case also serves as a salient reminder of the importance of disclosers acting on suspicion that something is awry in their workplace. More often than not, as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire,” said Ms Glass.
 
 
Notes to editors:
  • This case was investigated as a Protected Disclosure following referral by the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission.
  • Due to the nature of protected disclosures, the Ombudsman is not available for interview.
 
Media contact: Rory Cahill Tel 03 9613 6235 | Mob 0409 936 235  rory.cahill@ombudsman.vic.gov.au
 
Further information: Tel 03 9613 6222 | Regional 1800 806 314 | ombudvic@ombudsman.vic.gov.au | Follow @VicOmbudsman