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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Procurement controversie de jour: private contracting procurement fraud?

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, despite its name, is not a government institution (any more). It is a pillar (really -- one of the official "four pillars") of Australian private banking. Other than that, this would be a scandalous, but not unusual, controversy of procurement fraud. 

Procurement fraud is not restricted to government contracting. Some principles of procurement are universal, as are the problems.

US firm ServiceMesh founded by former Al Gore adviser at centre of CBA scandal (Read the whole story of all cited articles at the links.)
IT executive Keith Hunter, the bank's former general manager of technology service management and operations, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with two counts of bribery relating to a contract awarded by the bank to a US IT firm – ServiceMesh. Jon Waldron, the Commonwealth Bank's former general manager of IT engineering, flew to the US on the weekend after he became aware of the police's bribery investigation. Last week police froze an account with almost $2 million of allegedly corrupt payments.

The men are alleged to have awarded big-money contracts, worth tens of millions of dollars, to US firm ServiceMesh without putting it to public tender. The two men then allegedly received payments from a not-for-profit organisation, Ace Foundation, which was set up by by ServiceMesh, in return for awarding the contract. ServiceMesh was sold to US giant Computer Sciences Corporation in 2013.

NSW police will allege that the Commonwealth Bank contract was of a "significant size" and would have "contributed significantly" to the IT company's sale to CSC. After the sale, police allege that Mr Hunter and Mr Waldron were paid $2.19 million.

The Commonwealth Bank began its own investigation into the alleged crime last October while also notifying police. Both Mr Waldron and Mr Hunter were fired by the bank last year. "We have no tolerance for any illegal activity by any employee and we take every situation seriously," a statement from the bank released on Wednesday said. CSC said it was assisting authorities while also conducting its own investigation.

Mr Hunter pleaded not guilty to both bribery charges when he appeared at Sydney's Central Local Court on Wednesday.
US citizen charged in Sydney with bribery over bank contract
A US citizen who was recently a senior executive at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia pleaded not guilty in a Sydney court today to charges that he accepted bribes to award a contract to a US information technology firm.

Keith Robert Hunter, 61, formerly of San Francisco, and his alleged accomplice another Sydney-based American who has not been named were allegedly paid USD 2.19 million for awarding a bank contract to ServiceMesh without a tender, according to court documents.

Hunter, who had previously held senior positions at global corporations Visa Inc. And J.P. Morgan, was arrested at his Sydney apartment yesterday. "I want to vomit. I cannot believe we were tis (sic) stupid," Hunter wrote, according to police evidence tendered to the Sydney Central Local Court.

The money was paid through a California-based shelf company Ace Inc. Which had been set up by ServiceMesh, police evidence said. When questioned by bank investigators, Hunter and his alleged accomplice said the payments from Ace were for consultancy work.

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