Federal Government contracts were awarded to companies linked to suspected arms and drug smuggling, busting sanctions on Iran, corruption and bribery, a damning report has uncovered.
The report comes after failures to adequately vet the companies that were paid to run Australia’s asylum seeker offshore processing programme, despite knowledge of these company’s alleged activities being known.
An inquiry by Defence chief Dennis Richardson blamed a failure to use intelligence that could have prevented payment to multiple companies who’ve been accused of serious crimes.
“Intelligence and other information, which was readily available, was not accessed,” Richardson said in the report.
“As a consequence, integrity risks were not identified.”
In an interview with 60 Minutes, Richardson said this failure was “left arm not knowing what the right arm’s doing” and “simply a breakdown”. He said it enabled an environment in which the federal government awarded contracts to allegedly crooked companies.
“Over time I don’t think proper scrutiny was put on the contracts and I think it was a case of a lack of communication between different parts of the Department of Home Affairs, and between other parts of government and Home Affairs,” he said.
One of the companies involved, Paladin Group, is alleged to have paid bribed to Pacific Island officials while running an offshore processing programme on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.
Another was a firm owned by Mozammil Bhojani was awarded contracts worth millions of dollars while under investigation by Federal Police for allegedly bribing Nauruan officials.
The government has said the report will lead to a number of reforms including increased due diligence and intelligence sharing. Despite this, no companies or individuals have yet been charged.
However, it is likely the findings will lead to further investigations, with officials promising that negligent public servants or alleged bribe payers will be held accountable.