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ICAC to investigate alleged fraud and kickbacks at Botany Bay City Council

ICAC Commissioner Megan Latham will preside over the inquiry into allegations of fraud at Botany Bay City Council. Photo: Peter RaeAllegations of multimillion-dollar fraud and kickbacks for contracts at Botany Bay City Council will be examined at a public inquiry headed by NSW anti-corruption chief Megan Latham.

As the Independent Commission Against Corruption comes under sustained fire over its controversial inquiry into Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC, it has announced a new probe into allegations former Botany Bay Council chief financial officer Gary Goodman and other employees defrauded $4.2 million from the council using false invoices.

Public hearings will start on February 29 and are slated to run for three weeks.

The council said in a statement that it had “zero tolerance” for corruption and was “grateful for the ICAC’s work in exposing this matter”.

It said it would “continue to work with the ICAC to ensure those who have acted inappropriately are called to account for any criminal actions or misconduct.”

The inquiry, codenamed Operation Ricco, is also probing allegations that Mr Goodman “solicited and received payments as an inducement or reward for showing favourable treatment to contractors”. Councillors are not involved in the investigation.

“It is also alleged that Mr Goodman and other council employees dishonestly exercised official functions to obtain financial benefits for themselves and others by using council resources,” the ICAC said in a statement on Tuesday.

Ms Latham will preside over the inquiry. Counsel assisting the investigation is Sydney silk Murugan Thangaraj.

Botany Bay City Council is set to be merged with Rockdale City Council to form a new bayside council, under the Baird government’s local government shakeup.

The Supreme Court was told of the ICAC investigation on December 23, as the council sought urgent asset freezing orders against Mr Goodman and two performance car companies run by him. Mr Goodman worked at the council for 20 years before resigning late last year.

“There’s an ongoing investigation into what is said to be serious fraud and misappropriation of monies by the defendants in matters where they were employees at the council,” the council’s barrister, Arthur Moses, SC, told the court.

The council said the freezing orders were continued by the court on Tuesday morning and “effectively and appropriately protect council’s interests”.

“This will enable council to actively pursue the recovery of any funds or resources that have been misappropriated,” the council said.

“We will continue to cooperate with the ICAC and residents can be assured that council will take whatever legal steps are necessary to protect the interests of our community.”

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