A REPORT into allegations of maladministration and corruption at Blacktown Council has been released after a Tribunal deemed it was in the public’s interest.
The report commissioned by the council reveals how a manager inappropriately altered invoices to make unauthorised payments to a Chinese interpreter.
Over eight years to 2010, Hong Zhang, formerly known as Hong Turbit, was paid more than $452,000 by the council and another $5072 in the six months to February.
Ms Zhang’s manager, Leighton Farrell, has resigned since the findings were tabled and the council has adopted the report’s recommendations.
But it is clear Mr Farrell did not want to accept total blame for the exorbitant invoices.
In a statement to the report’s investigator, Mr Farrell alleged Ms Zhang was privileged with close relationships to successive mayors and general managers since 2003.
Although she was a contractor, Ms Zhang is said to have done most of her work on a computer at the council’s office.
Ms Zhang’s signed statement to the investigation said she was first introduced to the council by an unnamed councillor in 2001, when she used the surname Turbit.
‘‘With regard to my relationship with Ms Zhang I think it was closer than it should have been,’’ Mr Farrell wrote.
‘‘There was a bit of pressure to look after her from the council through the Sister Cities Committee.
‘‘The relationship grew between Hong Zhang and I and I think she became reliant on council itself for work.
‘‘She has had a close relationship with all three mayors and the two general managers. She has enjoyed easy access to all of them.’’
A spokeswoman for the mayor and general manager said they would not answer questions about what Mr Farrell may have implied.
The letter goes on to say Ms Zhang and an unnamed party had been engaged in 2001 to look for a Chinese sister city for Blacktown Council.
The council decided to form a financial relationship with the city of Lioacheng, where Ms Zhang’s father is, or was, an official of local government.
Much of Ms Zhang’s work since has been in relation to the sister city.
Over a similar period the council spent nothing on interpreter services for its Korean sister city, Su Song Gu and just $5532 on gifts to its officials.
As the Sun first reported in January 2011, the allegations of ‘‘unauthorised’’ payments to the interpreter were made by a council director in 2010.
General manager Ron Moore then commissioned an investigation into the allegations.
The investigation’s findings were handed back on February 9 last year, the same day Mr Farrell resigned.
The Sun and journalists at Seven Network News applied for access to the report under freedom of information laws.
The council’s right to information officer Craig Dalli denied the applications on grounds the report would reveal private information about staff.
The decision was challenged in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal by Seven and the council spent more than $30,000 defending its decision.
Late last month, tribunal judicial member Peter Henry Malony ordered the council release the report.
‘‘Given that the report is concerned with maladministration and misconduct by an employee of the agency (Blacktown Council) and has been the subject of considerable public discussion and media attention, I think that the public interest considerations in favour of disclosure deserve significant weight,’’ he said.
‘‘Release of the report would inform the public about what has actually occurred, and at what public cost.’’
A spokesman for Minister for Local Government Don Page said the department was making further investigations.