8 June 2008

Charges dropped against former part-time $630,000 public servant

Jim McGinty, Attorney-General and Health Minister for Western Australia, would be more than satisfied with the decision of Robert Cock, Director of Public Prosecutions, to not prosecute Dr Neale Fong, former Director General of Health.

The appointment of Dr Fong by Mr McGinty to reform WA's troubled health system has been a major embarrassment for the Carpenter government. Despite having to juggle such a demanding position with his commitment as chairman of the WA Football Commission, he was paid $630,000 a year, more than any other public servant in the nation. He set up his own bureaucracy at elite offices on Alvan Street in Subiaco, which costed $450,000 to fit out and $1 million to lease over four years, and wasted taxpayers' money on a string of costly external consultants. Dr Fong resigned in disgrace after the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) made adverse findings against him relating to his relationship with lobbyist Brian Burke. A report tabled in Parliament states that Dr Fong:

  • Engaged in serious misconduct by disclosing a restricted matter to Mr Burke, namely that the Commission was investigating a senior Department of Health officer, Mr Michael Moodie.
  • Engaged in misconduct by telling his Minister that he had no recollection of any email communication between himself and Mr Burke and had no personal relationship with Mr Burke while the Commission found evidence to the contrary.
  • Engaged in misconduct by failing to report the disclosure to him by Mr Burke of what Mr Burke claimed to be confidential Cabinet information.

Despite the findings of the CCC and admitting that the prospects of a successful prosecution were good, Mr Cock decided not to pursue charges against Dr Fong. He said that the likely penalty of a $60,000 fine was minor compared to the humiliation he has already suffered because of the investigation. Unfortunately, Dr Fong now sees the decision as a vindication of his actions. At a press conference, he stated "I was always confident that I had not committed an offence and that confidence was supported by my legal advice."

Leader of the state opposition, Troy Buswell, said the move meant there was one law for the rich and one for the poor in Western Australia.

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