Australia Post executives did not intentionally misuse public funds when the organisation gifted four Cartier watches to senior staff in 2018, an investigation into the purchase has found.
The report prepared by law firm Maddocks and released by the federal government on Friday found that while the purchase of the watches was “inconsistent” with the obligations set out by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act, it did not amount to corruption.
“There is no indication of dishonesty, fraud, corruption or intentional misuse of Australia Post funds by any individual involved in the matters relating to the purchase and gifting of the Cartier watches,” the report said.
“The then board did not consider or approve the purchase of the Cartier watches. There is no documentary evidence that the board approved the expenditure for, and none of the board members interviewed recalled any discussion about the purchase of, the Cartier watches.”
Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate resigned late last year after it was revealed the organisation had spent nearly $20,000 on four luxury watches, which were given to senior staff who had “put in an inordinate amount of work” on the [email protected] deal with Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and NAB.
In October Holgate had told Senate Estimates that former Australia Post chair John Stanhope had recommended that the staff, including executive general manager for business, government and international Gary Starr, receive a reward for their efforts.
However, the Australia Post board does not have any policies that would “support reward and recognition of executive performance through provision of items such as the Cartier watches”, the Maddocks report found.
It noted that there was “contradictory evidence” as to whether Holgate had told Stanhope that she intended to buy the watches or whether Stanhope approved the funds for the purchase.
“No definitive finding can be made in this regard,” it said.
The probe also found that there may have been other purchases which go against Australia Post’s guidelines.
“Based on a preliminary review of a limited set of credit card usage records, it appears there are potentially other instances of credit card usage for charges that, although for lesser amounts than the expenditure on the Cartier watches, may also be inconsistent with public expectations and Australia Post’s policies,” it said.
Read more: AusPost boss resigns amid investigation