A former public sector manager employed at a prison in Melbourne’s west arranged for $1.56 million worth of building and maintenance contracts to be awarded to companies owned by his son over a five-year period, Victoria’s anti-corruption agency has found.

Tabling a report into an operation known as Operation Nepean, the Independent Broad Based Anti-Corruption Agency (IBAC) reported that Jeff Finlow, a former facilities manager at a women’s prison known as the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre subverted procurement processes and failed to fully declare and manage conflicts of interest when awarding contracts to his son, Adam Finlow, – a qualified plumber who controlled several companies within the plumbing and drainage sector.

Examples include:

  • A 2010 contract for the plumbing, concreting and carpentry components of a project involving the transfer of accommodation units from Ararat Prison to DPFC
  • A $91,300 contract to construct a ten by five-meter kitchenette for staff at the facility
  • A $29,700 contract for the repair of concrete paths which had been identified as tripping hazards.

On each occasion, IBAC said Finlow flouted purchasing rules in order for this to happen.

On the accommodation transfer job, for example, he recommended his son’s company to his manager but failed to mention that his son owned the company.

On the kitchenette project, meanwhile, no evidence was found that Finlow obtained three quotes as per required prior to awarding the contract to his son’s company whilst falsified alternative quotes were used within the awarding of the concrete paths job.

IBAC also found that Finlow used his position to influence the recruitment of another son at DPFC, despite his son not having the electrical qualifications required for the position.

Finally, on another occasion, Finlow accepted a fishing boat and trailer as a gift from a contractor in a manner which was contrary to Department of Justice and Regulation policy.

Finlow resigned his position in June 2015 having previously been stood down pending an internal investigation.

Whilst IBAC decided there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges, agency Commissioner Stephen O’Bryan expressed disappointment with the conduct.

“Victorian public sector employees are expected to observe the highest standards of integrity O’Bryan said.

“This includes avoiding conflicts of interest and demonstrating impartiality in making decisions without favouritism or self-interest.”