Disturbing allegations against Queensland’s electoral commissioner

By Stephen Easton

Friday May 18, 2018

The Crime and Corruption Commission has substantiated five somewhat disturbing allegations against Queensland’s former electoral commissioner Walter Van der Merwe, finding he breached the public service code of conduct multiple times.

Pat Vidgen, previously the general manager for strategic engagement at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Corporation, is acting electoral commissioner from today.

Vidgen, a 28-year veteran of the Queensland Public Sector and awardee of the Public Service Medal, has previously been chief operating officer at the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and deputy chief executive of the Public Safety Business Agency.

The recruitment and selection process for a permanent commissioner is underway.

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath tabled a letter from the corruption watchdog yesterday, summarising its findings in relation to seven serious accusations. The CCC found two of these — claims of travel rorts and rumours about specific cases of nepotism — were baseless.

Allegations that were upheld by the CCC investigation include bullying, skipping work, being drunk on the job, and an incident where the commissioner was found in “a compromising position” of a sexual nature with a temporary staff member.

Van der Merwe allegedly favoured particular employees and “overruled reasonable management decisions of senior managers” to benefit them. Another allegation related to possession of steroids, which were found by CCC investigators inside locked containers in his office. Van de Merwe pled guilty to this in court and accepted a $600 fine, with no conviction recorded.

“It is suspected that Van der Merwe used drugs in the workplace,” according to the CCC’s summary of that allegation.

The corruption watchdog included seven recommendations arising from its investigation in the letter to D’Ath, which can be found published on Queensland’s parliamentary website.


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