At last another media outlet has got off its butt and used the resources Crikey doesn’t possess and chased down the ABC fraud claim story that Crikey broke late last year – refresh your memory here.

Until this story from today’s Sydney Morning HeraldABC man accused of gouging $701,000 – only the Sydney Sun-Herald had mentioned the case, a small follow up story to a Crikey exclusive late last year. Crikey reported earlier this week that a man had been charged over the fraud claims. We said the amount involved was less than $1 million and the SMH says it’s $701,000.

But Crikey has been told by one source that the authorities only selected some of the claims alleged to have been falsified, not all. One person says that the authorities used a handful of the more than dozen petty cash claims alleged to have been falsified by the person charged. The SMH names the person as Mark Williams.

His wife, Judy Grant, is the ABC’s procurement manager for the Northern region, including NSW. The post is also known as Production Resources Manager for the northern region. Williams was an operations manager in the news and current affairs division, based in Sydney.

It is known he worked on a number of programs, including Business Breakfast (now defunct), the Asia Pacific Service (still going) and Inside Business (still going).

Williams has appeared twice in court and is facing eight charges of either dishonestly causing a loss to the Commonwealth or dishonestly obtaining a gain. The SMH said seven of the charges total $153,000 and relate to the alleged misuse of ABC taxi-charge dockets, corporate credit cards, expenses claims and petty cash.

The other charge is for $547,789 and relates to the alleged use of false invoices with another man.

CRIKEY: If these charges are found to be true then the ABC management has a lot to answer for. The SMH reports that Mr Williams was appointed in 2002. A quick reckoning shows that in just under three years (the alleged fraud was discovered late last year, around September-October) more than $200,000 a year was being ‘lifted’ from the ABC’s accounts, if these charges are proved.

For a sum of that size to avoid detection is intolerable. Where were the ABC’s internal checking and audit controls? Russell Balding is a senior accountant and was the ABC’s Chief Financial Officer. An explanation is required from him, and the board!

B*gger the culture wars, the money is more important because it’s the lifeblood of the organization, coming as it does each year from taxpayers.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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