Council boss pleads guilty

The Serious Fraud Office says the guilty plea this morning by an Auckland Council manager to corruption charges show the dangers in not questioning a culture of gratuities.
The NZ Herald reports that Barrie Kenneth James George, 69, this morning at the High Court at Auckland pleaded guilty to two charges of accepting bribes as a public official when he took gifts worth $103,580 between 2005 and 2012. The gifts included cash, and lavish overseas holidays for George and his family.

In a statement, SFO director Julie Read says she welcomes the guilty plea.

“The offending in this case occurred over approximately eight years. In circumstances such as these, this conduct becomes part of the culture of an organisation, and can continue unquestioned,” she says.

George will be sentenced on September 1, and Justice Kit Toogood requested a report be prepared on his suitability for home detention.

George was one of three charged last year by the SFO over what is alleged was a culture at Rodney District Council, then later Auckland Transport, where accepting gratuities became part and parcel of the working environment.

Auckland Transport also welcomed the guilty plea and the public sector organisations’ chief executive David Warburton says procurement and contractual processes have since been improved, but that they need to be continually monitored and reviewed.

Murray John Noone, George’s superior at Auckland Transport during the time of the offending, is alleged to have received more than $1m in gratuities and faces six charges of accepting bribes.

Stephen James Borlase, who ran private contractor Projenz, faces eight charges of bribing George and Noone and four of doctoring the number of hours claimed to have been worked.

Borlase and Noone have pleaded not guilty and face an eight -week trial starting on September 19.