Integrity news: WA hospital manager pinged for $500k in overtime, Qld Health ex-CIO in the clear

By Stephen Easton

Friday September 20, 2019

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Undocumented overtime claims have landed a Western Australian hospital manager in hot water, with the Corruption and Crime Commission accusing her of clocking up over half a million dollars of extra pay in about five years without the proper paperwork.

The watchdog reports Judith Innes-Rowe racked up the additional payments between July 2012 and November 2017, while working as a manager in the Clinical Trials Unit at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital.

Her base salary was between $112,000 to $126,000 in those years and “while she did indeed work very long hours” she did not document all her overtime, according to the CCC. The report states she also took 125 days off without leave, in the five years from November 2012 to November 2017.

Her employer, the North Metropolitan Health Service, paid her $65,000 worth of unused annual leave when her employment came to an end last December, and the watchdog says she was not entitled to at least some of that.

Being pinged in parliament by the CCC over payroll irregularities does not seem to have harmed Innes-Rowe’s employment prospects in her area of expertise. “Despite two internal NMHS reports recommending disciplinary action against Ms Innes-Rowe, she was re-engaged via a recruitment agency in January 2019,” the agency reports.

The investigation found “weaknesses in Health Support Services’ payroll systems, including a 30-year-old payroll system that uses approximately 40 forms” in an area with a $4.3 billion annual wage bill. An updated payroll system that is being rolled out should help stop it happening again.

In the CCC’s view, Innes-Rowe was allowed to bypass official approval processes because she was trusted to do the right thing. “Her claims were effectively ‘approved’ by manager inaction,” the agency said in a statement.

“The overtime claims only stopped when NMHS introduced a new approval regime in November 2017.

“Staff at the Clinical Trials Unit are paid from a Special Purpose Account funded by sponsors in the pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology companies, clinical research organisations and collaborative groups. It is intended to be used for cancer clinical trials. The trust placed in Ms Innes-Rowe, coupled with the weaknesses in systems and oversight, came at a significant cost to these sponsors.”

The full report is available from the CCC and contains a lot of handy tips on how to run a tight ship where things like this don’t go unnoticed for years.

“Strong internal controls, detection strategies and effective oversight are the best defence against serious misconduct and corruption and the report outlines examples for all public sector agencies, including: reporting mechanisms; use of data analysis; fraud training; job rotation; and actively recovering losses when they are identified,” the agency says.

Former Queensland Health CIO in the clear

The other CCC, the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission, has completed its investigation of Richard Ashby, who resigned as chief information officer of Queensland Health earlier in the year amid allegations of a conflict of interest arising from a personal relationship.

“There was insufficient evidence to commence any criminal prosecution,” said the Qld CCC.

The investigation concerned an alleged undeclared relationship with another staff member working on a project to replace the Patient Administration System, which was then put on hold indefinitely as a result.

“This will mean we will not have a replacement system in place as quickly as we’d like but the procurement must be beyond reproach,” director-general Michael Walsh said at the time.

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