22/06/2022 - 12:18

CCC hears how 'gamekeeper' Whyte became 'poacher'

22/06/2022 - 12:18

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The boss of jailed bureaucrat Paul Whyte has told the Corruption and Crime Commission he thought the right audit measures were in place to prevent $22 million of taxpayers money being stolen.

CCC hears how 'gamekeeper' Whyte became 'poacher'
Former director general of department of housing Grahame Searle arrives at the CCC.

Former director general of the West Australian department of housing, Grahame Searle, has described disgraced bureaucrat and colleague Paul Whyte as the “gamekeeper who became poacher” and stole $22 million.

He told a hearing of the Corruption and Crime Commission today, that as the boss he might have been accountable for the massive fraud, but he was not responsible.

"In hindsight the gamekeeper became the poacher," Mr Searle said of Whyte. "The person in charge of our finances was the person who was doing the damage."

Whyte, who is currently serving 12 years in prison, worked under Mr Searle for at least six years. During that period Whyte was secretly using his corporate credit card to make payments to fake companies which were not providing any services to the department.

He used the stolen funds to buy expensive properties, dozens of race horses and to gamble at will.

"From my perspective, at the time, I had all the checks and balances I thought were appropriate," he said. "In hindsight, clearly they weren't."

From 2009 to 2015, Whyte used a bogus business called Boldline to funnel the stolen millions, after fabricating fake invoices to send to his own department.

He began the fraud the day after he was employed when he was given permission to increase his corporate credit card limit from $20,000 to $50,000 per month. No other general manager had that amount at their disposal.

Between 2009 and 2011, Boldline was paid $1.1 million via Whyte's credit card. No one questioned the transactions even though the amounts being invoiced were always just under the $50,000 monthly allowance afforded to Whyte. The invoices, and Whyte's supporting comments to Mr Searle, were taken at face value.

"Paul and his memo attached said he had followed the procurement process," Mr Searle said. "I was satisfied that a senior lieutenant had properly procured services and these invoices were appropriately paid. I probably didn't provide the right amount of oversight."

The CCC has not accused Mr Searle of any wrongdoing, and ahead of today's public examination, lawyer assisting Anthony Willinge, said it was important to ensure Whyte's crimes can't happen again.

"It is important to identify corruption that has occurred but also to understand the governance systems in place that may have allowed it to commence and continue," Mr Willinge said. "These examinations are part of the commission’s ongoing investigation."

Mr Searle described his relationship with Whyte as work-related and friendly, but he said the pair didn't socialise.

"He was a very respected public servant," Mr Searle said. "He was held in high esteem by everybody."

Looking back, Mr Searle said the mistake made was combining Whyte's roles so he managed the department's finances and its commercial business.

Mr Willinge put it to Mr Searle that a more accurate description for Whyte was "the poacher who was appointed gamekeeper".

 

 

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