A senior manager at a government-owned utility Horizon Power, who allegedly gave consulting contracts to his business partner worth more than $1 million, said he wanted to “rape as much as I can” out of the utility, the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) has been told.
The CCC is examining the conduct of Paul Mitchell Thomas and his business partner Anthony Darren Raspa, including how the wife of one of the men came to be employed at the utility, and why a business relationship between the Mr Thomas and a full-time contractor was not declared.
Commissioner Justice John McKechnie will examine whether Mr Thomas and Mr Raspa engaged in serious misconduct in their roles as public officers at the utility.
Counsel assisting the commissioner, Tse Chee Nevill, said in her opening address that Mr Thomas was employed as the head of Horizon’s IT department in 2010.
A month later, a company trading as Trusted Solutions was incorporated, with Mr Thomas and Mr Raspa as the sole directors and shareholders.
Ms Nevill said the commission would examine why Mr Thomas did not declare his business interest in this company when he engaged his co-owner Mr Raspa to provide consulting services to a value of $1.16 million to Horizon over four years.
She said Mr Raspa and Mr Thomas both plotted to exploit their positions at Horizon to obtain benefit for themselves through their private business.
Ms Nevill said the CCC had evidence Mr Thomas told Mr Raspa in September 2017:
“I’ll be honest. I’m going, ‘How do I create a little entity, wrap up Horizon Power, rape as much as I can out of it and then we both f*** off’.”
Mr Thomas was allowed to approve contracts of up to $50,000.
Mr Raspa was employed as a program manager with Horizon, and subsequently also given financial authority to approve that amount.
Trusted Solutions was included in a State Government’s Common Use Arrangement (CUA), allowing suppliers to be used by government departments, an arrangement that can be highly lucrative for a small business.
Justice McKechnie was told Mr Thomas authorised Horizon to pay “agency margin fees” to his and Mr Raspa’s business, through a third-party firm, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Horizon general manager David Tovey told the commission the utility has clear policies on conflict of interest.
Mr Tovey said it was possible to access an exception from going out to tender for services in some circumstances.
He said Mr Raspa was engaged as part of an exemption, which was approved by Mr Thomas.
Horizon provides electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses in the state.
The Commission is expected to hear from Mr Thomas and Mr Raspa later this week.