Former icare compliance officer harassed at work, misconduct concerns ignored

By Shannon Jenkins

August 24, 2020

Chris Carr said Jenny West’s status in her job application was ‘well-advanced but not at the end of it’.  (Image: Adobe/ Keitma)

A former senior compliance officer at icare was told not to raise concerns about dodgy procurement processes and other instances of misconduct with the regulatory authority.

Chris McCann was “constantly warned” not to disclose his concerns to the State Insurance Regulatory Authority, a joint investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC’s 7.30 revealed on Monday.

This was despite him having “evidence of theft, fraud, corruption, conflicts and other activities” occurring within the agency.

“The more I dug the more the company and the senior people dug their heels in and didn’t like what I was asking,” he said.

McCann began working at icare in 2016, and left in 2018. During that time he recorded various instances of wrongdoing.

In August 2016 McCann wrote of a disregard for procurement processes and “millions of dollars of contracts being awarded to people with close relationships internally and not declaring their conflicts of interest”.

Two months later, he detailed how a senior executive screamed at him after he raised concerns about dodgy procurement processes. McCann said the executive had banged on his desk when asked about the awarding of a contract to Capgemini Australia without declaring his relationship with a senior employee at the consultancy.

The contract was for a new claims management system, and ended up costing an estimated $360 million.

Read more: NSW Treasury secretary to lead probe into Dominic Perrottet’s office over icare secondments

The media investigation found that some of the executives McCann raised concerns with remain at the agency, and key information from a report he had created for the board audit and risk committee was removed.

Other revelations include that after McCann was diagnosed with an illness, he was excluded from key meetings, and his job was advertised without his knowledge. He also received threatening and homophobic messages via email and in a package.

McCann has since been diagnosed with severe depression and PTSD and has been unable to work since departing the agency. He signed a gag order when he left.

icare board member Gavin Bell told a parliamentary inquiry on Monday that the threatening emails were “disgraceful”, but attempts to identify the culprit were unsuccessful.

“We had our internal IT people try to trace the source of those emails, they were unable to do so … they were from an address outside the organisation and we were not able to ascertain who left the letter,” he said.

“But the issues that Mr McCann raised in relation to impropriety were completely separate.

“I do not believe that the person who sent the emails had anything to do with any other issues.”

On Saturday the icare board announced it had established a Committee on Corporate Governance to review icare’s response to the issues raised by the media and in NSW Parliament, and the “adequacy and operation of icare’s governance policies and structures”.

Lisa McIntyre has been appointed chair of the committee, alongside initial members Peeyush Gupta, Christine Bartlett, and Elizabeth Car.

The committee will appoint a corporate governance expert to act as a standing advisor while independent third parties will assist with the review.

The board said it was “deeply concerned” by the issues raised in recent weeks and “recognises the need for further action”. However, it noted that “many of these matters have been the subject of thorough, independent reviews and investigations”.

“To this end the board is undertaking a review of existing structures and policies in order to consider what further improvements should be made to icare’s governance and transparency,” it said.

Read more: Martin Hoffman told NSW government icare issues needed ‘decisive engagement’ in 2019, emails show

Over the past month, icare CEO John Nagle, board member Mark Lennon, and NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s chief of staff Nigel Freitas have all resigned amid the scandal plaguing the agency.

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