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BIZARRE PICTURE OF EVENTS - FROM INDEPENDENT FORMER DVA "INSIDER" REPORT 

SUPPLEMENTARY REPORT ON EXTERNAL REVIEW DAMNING DVA INCL. ADVICE CDPPUNHEEDED CHASTISEMENT OF DVA 25 SEPTEMBER 2004

 Note:

  • DVA had not heeded other warning by its own senior management 7 October 2003 and by National Fraud Control 10 November 2003, OR
  • DVA failed to heed CDPP April 2003 warning or
  • DVA and National Fraud closure of investigation into alleged fraud 19 May 2003; also
  • DVA failed to heed numerous warnings by Lt Cdr Atkins from early & late 2002; then November and December 2003; in addition

 

  • DVA failed to heed CDPP warning 23 September 2004, or
  • External Review condemnation August 2011, or
  • OAIC chastisement December 2012 through to late 2013, despite
  • Code of Conduct investigation of senior SES officers in DVA; also
  • Numerous serious complaints about failed APSC Code of /ethics and intentional fraud where APSC Commissioner Sedgwick referred matters to the VRB and also

 

  • Where APSC advised I take action via the AFP, as also had the Attorney General's department and PM & C, all shirking responsibility in obsequiousness compliance with DVA's hundreds of illegal denunciations successfully urging all senior officials and agencies to cease enquiries so perverting the course of justice while also breaching The Crimes Act and Criminal Code, including in intentional fraud.
  • Current DVA Minister, Senator Michael Ronaldson, became involved in this case in 2011 in response to exposé's of DVA and Ministerial lying about the establishment of an external review by CPM's Mr Lamond, hired by DVA and deliberately excluding my complaints and most of those by Mr Evans.

 

Email by Paul Evans 7Nov11

Paul Evans

9 Bourke St

COLLECTOR   NSW   2581

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs

 GPO Box 9998
Canberra ACT 2601

 Attn Liz Cosson

 

Cc        Mr John Atkins

Re:       Supplementary notes to the assessment of the report by Mr Jeff Lamond titled ‘Complaints raised by Mr John Atkins & supporting commentary and recommendations provided by     Mr Paul Evans’

7 November 2011

Ms Cosson

On 4 October 2011 DVA released several hundred pages of documents under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 1982.  These documents were requested to gain greater clarity of the decision to engage Mr Lamond, as well as the conduct of his review.  These documents have only raised further serious questions, of which only a few are considered in this letter.  However, I would like to advise that Mr Lamond has deliberately ignored significant evidence that documents improper behaviour by a member of DVA’s Senior Executive Service (SES) in relation to the acquittal of BEST grants.  That this evidence was not presented nor explained by Mr Lamond is a significant omission.

Pre-conceived conclusions – absolution of members of the SES

In my original response to Mr Lamond’s report I noted that I fundamentally disagreed with his finding that the prolonged (or second) investigation was purely the responsibility of DVA’s two senior fraud investigators.  I argued that they acted upon instructions from their superiors, which meant members of the SES.  So sure was Mr Lamond that past Deputy Presidents had acted correctly that he wrote in his draft:

I note that I sought character references from Mr Sullivan and Mr XXXX.  In discussion both Mr Killesteyn and Mr XXXX stated that there was no inappropriate relationship or any real or potential conflict of interest.  Mr XXXX noted Mr Killesteyn’s honesty and integrity.  Mr Sullivan expressed the same view [Author’s note:  Despite an implied linkage, Mr Sullivan did not state there was no conflict of interest].  On the balance of probabilities I conclude that Mr Killesteyn did not improperly influence matters relating to Mr Billing.

Mr Lamond stated that he conducted a brief interview with Mr Killesteyn on 20 August 2011.  In the earlier interview with Mr Sullivan there is no record of any discussion regarding any potential conflict of interest.  There is no comment at all on possible fraud in the best grants and no real comment on Mr Atkins, stating only that he was aware of the issues.  We have absolutely no idea who Mr XXXX is, nor why all reference is removed from the final report.  There is no indication whether Mr Lamond did interview Mr XXXX or, if he did, why the details were not included in the report.  No-one can be sure from the record when the draft was even provided to DVA, though I believe it was around 20 June 2011.  This was also the date of the interview with Mr Killesteyn[1][1].  What is clear is that is that Mr Lamond recorded his expected, rather than actual, results of the interview in this draft.  The only discussion he held with any officer prior to this draft regarding any potential conflict of interest was with Mr Killesteyn himself.

Pre-conceived justifications – interviews with this author

On page 3 of both the draft and final report by Mr Lamond he wrote:

There were further discussions with both Mr Atkins and Mr Evans about the work I was to undertake.

Further, on page 9 of the draft Mr Lamond states:

I will ring Mr Evans with some final questions to clarify those documents and the conclusions he had reached and to discuss comments he has made in correspondence to me dated 16 June 2011 querying content of the recent Ministerial letter.

Then, on page 22 of the draft, he writes

Clarify with Mr Evans re Harrison [This is a notation under ‘allegation’ 25.  Interestingly, this section had nothing to do with Mr Harrison.  That was ‘allegation’ – recommendation in my report - 26]

I admit I found the comment on page 3 about further discussions amusing when I first read the released review.  As I have noted, apart from introducing myself in a phone call that covered no issues relating to my reports, I never discussed anything with Mr Lamond.  At first I believed he was simply over-stating his case.

With the release of the draft this issue is now a little more serious.  Mr Lamond advised DVA that these sections would be completed after discussion with myself.  I must emphasise that no such discussion ever took place.  Despite this, he did not alter any of these sections, although the notes were obviously deleted.  The one exception is the section on Mr Harrison.  I note that, in his draft, despite at least five months investigation, Mr Lamond could then make no other comment apart from needing to ‘clarify with Mr Evans’.  Yet, without contacting me, he would subsequently write almost a page exonerating Mr Harrison.  The only investigative action taken by Mr Lamond between recording this note and finalising the report was a telephone interview with Mr Harrison.  Even the PLA, Ms Spiers, did not discuss the recommendation on Mr Harrison.  Therefore, despite having reviewed all the documentation previously and not being able to reach any conclusion, Mr Lamond dismisses this recommendation purely on this later conversation with Mr Harrison.  On all these matters Mr Lamond either misled DVA as to the actions he would take to investigate these issues, or else he decided to not interview myself after discussions he held with DVA.

Furthermore, Mr Harrison was only contacted by Geoff Cotterell, on behalf of Mr Lamond, on      20 June 2011, some five months into the review.  In his email Mr Cotterell stated to Mr Harrison:

You may not be aware of this but there is an independent review currently underway responding to complaints made in November 2010 by a veteran, Mr John Atkins.  The person undertaking the review is Mr Jeff Lamond of CPM Reviews.

Jeff called this afternoon [20 June 2011] to ask is he could make contact with you to assist in his review.

He would like to contact you specifically to enquire if you have any recollection of a conversation in April 2003 with a member of the National Fraud Control Unit of the time about advice in relation to dispatch of documents to the AAT regarding Mr Atkins.  Jeff advised that there is a NFCU running sheet in the documentation he has provided that mentions such a conversation.

I am still surprised by that email.  At the time Mr Lamond directed Mr Cotterell to approach Mr Harrison he had already told DVA that he would deliver his completed report at the end of February, March and May 2011 and it was then due on 31 June 2011.  Obviously he did not contact me, which begs the question of how he planned to respond to this section, amongst others, at these earlier due dates.

I would again like to state for the record that, with one exception discussed below, I never raised any issues with Mr Lamond regarding his work for the review.  His comments are a gross misrepresentation.  Furthermore, I note that as of 26 July 2011 Mr Cotterell, DVA’s liaison with Mr Lamond, emailed the National Manager People Services Group that:

I know that Evans’ reports were being considered and was also under the impression Jeff had contacted and spoke [to] Mr Evans.  Are you able to confirm?  Otherwise I’ll just call Jeff to find out.[2][2]

I can make no polite comment.

The missing contact

On 4 June 2011 I provided the only direct advice to Mr Lamond regarding an issue I believed should be covered by his review: the handling of Mr Atkins’ FOI requests.  A reply to Mr Atkins was copied to Mr Lamond once I found out that a crucial document was not provided to Mr Atkins.  He acknowledged receipt but that was the extent of any ‘discussion’.  I wrote to Mr Atkins:

In all honesty I didn’t know how little information you have received.  What DVA has provided clearly show that they previously released documents under FOI but there is very little detail.  I just presumed you received most, if not all, of the documents up until around 2005 when the decision was made to basically ignore your letters as DVA claimed to have dealt with all the issues you raised.  As I noted in the supplementary report, document control by the Legal Services Group (LSG) was absolutely appalling, so there was no detail on what you actually had received.

I find it hard to believe how poorly your FOI requests were handled and this must be addressed by Mr Lamond.  Although, as I’ve mentioned, your FOI requests are not worded properly in that you often demand answers, not documents.  However, it is an obligation by DVA to assist you clarify what documents you are after; the guidelines still specify that ‘If your request does not comply with the legal requirements for some reason, they will help you make a valid application.’…..They didn’t have to word the FOI request for you, but it is not hard to explain what you need to do to make a valid request without [DVA] making it a personal attack….

I find it difficult to believe, after all your requests, that you did not receive a copy of Mr Pirani’s report that was widely circulated.  It is a key document that should have been provided under any FOI request that DVA actioned.  I know you aren’t impressed by my attempts to calm you down until Mr Lamond completes his report, but on this occasion you have every right to be angry as the fact you never received the document was deliberate obstructionism.  If I had realised this when I wrote the supplementary report I would have gone to town myself.  It’s absurd that DVA can draft a highly prejudicial report to other government agencies and parliamentarians and effectively deny you access.

 More importantly, as you actually received documents under FOI, why was it not included?  The current team can’t help, because the records held on you by LSG are in such a poor state.  Yet, this is a very important question.  Was it considered by the FOI officer and excluded or not?  Were you advised it was excluded?  I’ve included Linda [sic] Cosson in this, although DVA will try to pass this off as being covered by Mr Lamond.  I don’t [think] this will be covered by his report so, if I was you, I’d immediately be putting in a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner [emphasis was in the email].

 I was correct on both accounts.

 Interestingly, with regards a concern raised below, Mr Ted Harrison was the Director of the LSG section responsible for FOI requests throughout this period.

Failure to explain contradictory evidence

 Mr Lamond dismissed my concerns that the handling of concerns over BEST grants was a strong indicator of bias towards Mr Billing by members of the SES, specifically Mr Killesteyn and his predecessor.  He stated in his final report on page 23:

I consider that that response from Mr Killesteyn which go to the core of the allegations at (i), (ii) and (iii) demonstrates that allegation (iv) is lacking any essential foundation and is without substance.  I also note that given the audit into the matters of particular concern to Mr Evans, and that the findings did not suggest fraud rather than the need for better management – then allegation (v) has been addressed and is without support.

Unfortunately, this response did not address the concerns about the previous Deputy President’s role in management of fraud investigations by DVA.  This is an interesting oversight by               Mr Lamond.  However, with regard his above comment, I note that in the most recent FOI release there is a letter that was presented to Mr Killesteyn in 2005 by Mr Harry Kirkman on behalf of several ESO officials.  It details concerns over Mr Billing’s alleged misuse of BEST funding dating back to 2002-03.  The information was gathered by the St Mary’s outpost sub-branch which was heavily involved in advocacy work.  The documents included a court transcript recording              Mr Billing’s 1980 conviction and sentencing for fraud.  This document was new information for me. Mr Lamond does not make any reference to it in his report on the BEST program.

Mr Lamond does not discuss but dismisses out of hand my statutory declaration. In it I note that my understanding is that the Deputy President organised the review by the auditors after he had instructed the General Manager, Business Integrity Division to follow up with Mr Billing the concerns raised in a denunciation.  Again, I note that I was not provided with this denunciation when asked to review the expenditure of BEST monies by Mr Billing.  Subsequently, instead of referral to the fraud investigators as I had recommended, the decision was made to write to the VVFA advising them that DVA accepted most of the blame for the poor acquittal, primarily through not providing sufficient training and adequate directions to Ex-Service Organisations (ESOs). The audit was then done the following year without any apparent reference to the concerns I raised.  Mr Lamond does not consider my allegation that the subsequent audit report reflected the Deputy President’s preferred outcome.

 I discussed Mr Lamond’s failures in considering the BEST grants in my primary response.  However, this new document only reinforces my earlier conclusion:  As Mr Lamond tried to justify the decision to investigate Mr Atkins because so many prominent persons knew of the denunciation, how can he justify Mr Killesteyn’s decision to not investigate the denunciation when its existence was known, even supported, by several prominent persons that included:

             The National President of the VVFA

             The St Marys sub-branch President

             The St Marys sub-branch Secretary

 Mr Lamond did not address the difference in treatment between the two denunciations against the criteria he used.

 The charge against another member of the SES –Why was the Kirkman document excluded?

 Page 9 of the Kirkman document contains the most incredible and damaging claim.  It states that in a meeting with Mr John Sadeik of DVA (a meeting which this same officer possibly even chaired) he reportedly recommended to the President, Mr Billing, and the Treasurer of ‘… a way to disguise the use of almost $21,000 of BEST funding used for the VVAA National Congress held at Rooty Hill Resort in May [2005].  The suggestion was put for St Mary’s to donate $10,468.96 and South West Region to donate a further $10,500 to the VVAA NC NSW Branch and when the round 7 BEST Grant was received by the VVAA NC NSW Branch this money would be refunded as part of the BEST Funding to go to the sub-branches.’

 These donations were so made.

 Mr Sadeik is an SES officer in DVA and is currently the National Manager of the Income Support Group.  Prior to this he was also responsible for accepting the acquittal of the BEST funding for this ESO in NSW.  This is a significant charge that he would suggest a way for inappropriate spending of BEST monies to be disguised and that he himself then approved the acquittal covering these deceptions as correct.

 I have previously noted that the acquittal of these grants were particularly weak.  I was never aware of this allegation against Mr Sadeik.  Mr Lamond clearly was as this FOI request was for documents provided for him to review.  Yet he never mentioned it in his report, nor did he seek to interview  Mr Sadeik or discuss this issue with any of the SES officers whom he interviewed.  I find that this omission, after seven months of investigation by Mr Lamond, absolutely staggering.

 In my report I presented DVA’s handling of the BEST program as an indicator of preferential bias towards Mr Billing that directly led to the inappropriate investigation of Mr Atkins.  The information that Mr Lamond ignored changes this scenario dramatically.  The risk of this allegation being substantiated against Mr Sadeik was a direct threat to the career of a member of DVA’s SES.  There is no evidence that Mr Killesteyn acted on this complaint against this officer.  It certainly wasn’t brought to my attention when I reviewed the acquittal and recommend it be passed to DVA’s fraud investigators, while Mr Lamond is not just silent on the serious issues it raised, but does not even include the docUment in his review.  Why?  

  Nothing has changed

Ms Cosson wrote in her letter to Mr Atkins that:

While the Department cannot change events that occurred in the past, it may be comforting to note Mr Lamond commented in his report that if a case similar to yours was to occur today, the process of testing the allegations and investigating the matter would be quite different.

This reference is primarily about the handling of Mr Atkins’s investigation, but it also implies that Mr Atkins long struggle to have his concerns reviewed properly would also not occur and that he will be treated appropriately.  This is simply not the case.

The breakdown of Mr Atkins’ relationship with DVA does not just relate to the investigation.  It is about how DVA handled his complaints, his FOI requests and his claims.  Quite simply, once an unavoidable FOI request was lodged in November 2010, DVA had no choice but to release the documents that forced Mr Lamond to acknowledge the investigation was seriously flawed and should not have taken place, as well as there being a serious breach of Mr Atkins’ privacy.  Yet his report ignores that as recently as April 2010 the current Deputy President supposedly reviewed these files but failed to come to the same conclusions as either myself or even Mr Lamond.  This is a pattern of official denial and poor treatment that occurs to this day.

The best example is DVA’s response to Mr Atkins’ application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to have the scope of Mr Lamond’s review expanded.  I had counselled him against it as I believed the appeal to be counter-productive.  Never-the-less, the AAT heard his application on 17 August 2011.  DVA does not advise Mr Atkins that six days prior to this hearing the Secretary had accepted the final report.  Mr Atkins travels to the hearing in Sydney at great emotional and some financial cost.  DVA’s costs are also high and includes flying Mr Ted Harrison up from Melbourne to defend against Mr Atkins appeal.  Apparently, DVA had no-one capable of conducting this defence from their National Office in Canberra.

Mr Harrison was forced by the presiding officer to admit that DVA had already received the final report.  I note that Mr Atkins immediately ceased all further action on the appeal once he received that information. I again question whether this hearing was necessary.

However, with receipt of these FOI documents, more serious questions arise quite apart from the unnecessary inconvenience of Mr Atkins.  Firstly, Mr Ted Harrison is a significant person in both mine and Mr Lamond’s reports.  The original fraud investigator has now confirmed that that the investigation log was a record of actual events, not some form of ‘aide memoire’ as suggested by Mr Lamond.  This directly contradicted Mr Harrison’s statement to Mr Lamond.  Mr Harrison was also the director of the LSG section responsible for Mr Atkins’ FOI requests for most of the last decade.  This was an area Mr Lamond has chosen not to investigate in his report.  Nor was           Mr Harrison unaware of the concerns raised in my report as he was interviewed by Mr Lamond on 23 June 2011.  Any widening of the terms of reference and revisiting of the issue could have had a significant personal impact upon Mr Harrison.  It is not unreasonable to suggest he had a strong interest in ensuring the review was concluded within its original scope.

There is also evidence that the opposition to Mr Atkins’ appeal was automatic, with no attempt by LSG to review the merits of the case or to consider an alternative to a hearing.  Mr Harrison, in an email on 16 August 2011, noted that Mr Atkins ‘…concerns was principally with the scope of the review.’  Note the date of this email.  It was the day before the hearing.  Mr Harrison would have already booked his accommodation and travel days before it was sent.  Then, in this same email, he also wrote to Mr Cotterell asking:

Second, David [emphasis in the email], I note there is some material in relation to the Lamond review in TRIM, but rather than trawl though [sic] it, are you able to provide me with a copy of the terms of reference and whether there was any statutory authority for the review?

The email goes on to say that the review is unlikely to progress, but nothing better illustrates DVA’s attitude to Mr Atkins than this email.  The opposition is so blindly automatic that              Mr Harrison hasn’t even bothered to examine the background material on Mr Lamond’s review until the day before the hearing.  Not only did he not advise Mr Atkins that the review was complete (he was reminded same day by his acting PLA), he did not make any attempt to understand the issues to see if there was an alternate solution other than a hearing.  It has to be asked if DVA sees AAT hearings as a financial and psychological obstacle that it automatically uses to delay and discourage dissent rather than seeing the AAT as an option of last recourse

Anecdotally, the hearing did not go well for Mr Harrison.  On 22 August 2011, less than a week after the hearing, another LSG Director by the name of Eden Zanetta emailed Robert Douglass stating in part:

AAT proceedings [emphasis in email] – as Ted is ‘disqualified’ from representing DVA and I understand that you will now have carriage of case, could you please inform the AAT that you are now representing DVA and seek a new date for hearing.

There is no explanation as to why Mr Harrison is disqualified.  We don’t know who disqualified him.  Was it an AAT direction or recommendation?  Did Mr Harrison dismiss himself following criticism at the hearing or was he disqualified by a superior?  It is impossible to say as DVA, as usual, makes no record of this decision.  The only thing for certain is that this evidence confirms that he should never have been there.

Conclusion

Mr Lamond’s report contains many flaws and omissions.  At minimum, it took an incredible seven months to complete.  He promised and failed to deliver the final report on several due dates in February, March, May, June and July.  He was never censured by DVA for these delays.  In fact, so pleased is DVA by the service from CPM that this company has gone from a relative minor deliverer of ‘management reviews’ in 2010-11 to becoming the primary provider this financial year.  In fact, just days after the start of the financial year CPM was awarded five contracts worth $100,000.  It now stands at seven (out of nine) contracts worth $136,000 since 1 July 2011.  The value of its contracts have increased this financial year by over 100% and there is still eight months to go before it ends[3][3].

As for Mr Atkins, his options are limited.  In a brief to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on            2 September 2011 DVA provided a copy of the report for the Minister.  However, the brief noted that:

The Department anticipates that despite providing LCDR Atkins with the report of the investigation, he will continue to write letters of complaint to you, to DVA and to other ministers and agencies.  Your Chief of Staff has agreed that correspondence from LCDR Atkins will only be responded to if he raises new issues [my emphasis].

So, even without reading the review, the Minister’s office has returned to a position of comfort and will ignore the impact of the reports findings that the investigation should never have occurred and that there was a significant breach of Mr Atkins’ privacy by his department.  DVA did not even offer to apologise for Mr Atkins experiences over the past decade, let alone suggest compensation.  DVA is also comfortable in the knowledge that it can automatically refuse any attempt at reaching a settlement while advising all and sundry of the position taken by the Minister and suggest they do the same, just as Mr Pirani did in the previous decade.

Meanwhile, we now have had an independent review commissioned by DVA that uncovered serious allegations against a member of its own SES, but somehow Mr Lamond managed to neither investigate nor even mention its existence.

Yours sincerely

 

Paul Evans

 


[1][1] I have repeatedly noted the lack of minutes, agendas, etc. in relation to Mr Lamond’s review.  The draft copy Mr Lamond provided to DVA is yet another example.  It is undated and even the FOI schedule could not date this document.  Never-the-less, I have provisionally dated this document as approximately 20 June 2011.  In justification I refer to the email from David Cotterell to Ms Cosson dated 11 July 2011.  It is the only reference I can find to the draft and in it he states ‘Given that his draft was 3 weeks ago I can only hope that it is very close to completion.’  On page 9 the draft refers to conducting an interview with Mr Atkins on a date yet to happen (they met on 28 June 2011) while the section on the discussion with Mr Killesteyn remains unchanged.  Mr Lamond dates this discussion as 20 June 2011.  Conversely, Mr Lamond does not date the interview with Mr Sullivan in the draft implying that it may have been sent even before that interview.  If so, the implications of when he wrote these comments are even more profound.

[2][2] Mr Lamond only advised DVA on 27 July 2011, six days after he had again promised to deliver the complete the report, that he would not interview me.  In an email to Mr Cotterell he wrote ‘As I reconsidered all of the material/argument that I had, and in the context of the letter from Mr Evans querying the integrity of the process etc. I determined to complete my work on the paper and attachments that Mr Evans had provided and did not purse [sic] contact/discussion with him.’

Mr Lamond had five months to contact me before he received my letter.  However, I can understand him not contacting me in late June or July.  I would have demanded answers to the questions I raised.  Having reviewed his report and the latest tranche of  FOI documents, I stand by the ‘context’ of my June letter.

[3][3] This includes all contracts listed as the type ‘Management Advisory Services.’  On 11 July 2011 DVA signed with CPM: CN407701-A1, CN407698, CN407699, CN407700,  and CN407702-A1.  Subsequently CN435886 and CN433001 were signed.

In the previous financial year CPM signed only 2 out of 6 contracts awarded by DVA for ‘Management Advisory Services’.  They were worth $60,000 out of that years bucket of $169,000 spent on this category (This excludes long term contracts worth more than $150,000).  The contracts awarded to CPM in 2010-11 were CN378578-A2 and CN339692.

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