A former Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Inspector was jailed for three years, to serve six months, for official corruption involving procurement fraud as a result of a joint investigation conducted by the CCC, QFES and the QPS.
At the time of the offending, Steven Sparks was an inspector managing a unit that handled significant procurement for QFES, including sourcing uniforms, the cleaning and decontamination of uniforms and warehousing of QFES inventory.
Sparks arranged secondary employment for himself as a consultant with two companies that were tendering for QFES work. He took active steps to assist those companies in the preparation of tenders for QFES work worth more than $10 million, including:
• releasing confidential tender information before it was available publicly
• assisting the two companies write and prepare their tender documents
• providing technical knowledge to the two companies to assist their tenders
• providing feedback and suggestions on their tender documents and
• making recommendations to selection panels that those companies be selected.
Sparks never disclosed either the secondary employment or his involvement in the tender process to his employers at QFES, nor did he ever declare any conflict of interest. The evidence showed he took steps to hide his involvement with the two companies from other QFES employees.
In his role as a consultant to one of the companies, Sparks wrote the bulk of the company’s tender to QFES. Weeks later, in his role with QFES, he assessed the same tender and recommended that the company be selected. He awarded the tender 87/100 points and provided many favourable comments about the quality of the tender. Sparks earned just under $200,000 from the companies during that time.
The investigation began in 2017 as a joint operation by the CCC, the Ethical Standards Command of the QFES and the QPS Financial and Cyber Crime Group.
As the case progressed, evidence revealed multiple types of corrupt behaviour including undeclared secondary employment, undeclared conflicts of interest, supervisory failures, fraudulent procurement and improper disclosure of confidential information.
The investigation was not revealed by internal controls but from information from people outside the department, including an anonymous source.
On 31 May 2019, former QFES Inspector Steven Sparks was sentenced to three years imprisonment, to be suspended after serving six months, after pleading guilty to four counts of official corruption involving procurement fraud.
Three other defendants are still in court on related charges.
Multiple procedural recommendations were made to QFES regarding secondary employment, conflicts of interest and governance issues.
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