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Credit Card Fraud Allegations Against Australian Agriculture Workers
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Credit Card Fraud Allegations Against Australian Agriculture Workers

Federal Agriculture Department employees are on the hot seat due to allegations made against them in the past eighteen months. Six of these credit card fraud allegations were investigated by Australian authorities, but they were eventually dismissed in a hearing due to lack of evidence.

The claims were related to credit card fraud along with corruption allegations, according to Conall O'Connel, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry secretary. Since the issues were made public, O'Connel denied claims that 10% of the department's senior officials were investigated by authorities in the past year.

Allegations of Corruption and Fraud

Nine allegations were made against 900 employees, according to reports. However, as Dr. O'Connell reiterated, people have to know that these were mere allegations and that there were no findings of fraudulent activity. Substantiated or not, the department is still getting a lot of media attention and a dose of negative publicity.

Three out of the nine allegations were made against the department's senior executive service officers. Two of these allegations according to reports are related to the fraudulent use of credit cards. What is alarming about these two reports is that they were reported by the very people who were involved in said activity. After a series of inquiries, the allegations were said to be baseless. The corruption charge was subsequently dismissed.

Bill Withers, the acting Chief Operating Officer for corporate services, said that in the financial year 2010 to 2011, twenty-three fraud allegations were issued against employees of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry. Despite claims that the agency had divided a procurement contract to steer clear of an open tender, Dr. O'Connell denied that his department was suffering from systemic problems.

Correcting the Problems In the Australian Government

An audit report reveals that the employees of the department were confused with what they are doing and were poorly trained but according to the department, it has already implemented the recommended action from the audit.

Last September, the Minister for Agriculture, Joe Ludwig, asked Dr. O'Connell to send a written report regarding the allegations including an explanation regarding issues on irregular tendering and internal fraud. Since the news of fraud within the department broke out, different news agencies in Australia have been quite vigilant in uncovering the truth. The Herald, for one, published internal audit files of the department.

In the last three years, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry has had approximately 400 breaches of Australia's Financial Management Act. Amidst the controversy, Dr. O'Connell is firm that there have been no findings that support the allegations against one departmental officer in 2008 or the years after. He stated in one interview that the audits were just standard operating procedure to improve the department's practices.

Graft and corruption in large government agencies has prompted the administration to spend $700,000 AUS for a National Anti-Corruption Plan. Credit card fraud has become a rampant issue throughout Australia and the rest of the world, and credit fraud protectionis quickly becoming a necessity.


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