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Nepotism case ‘so blatant as to beggar belief’: Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board

Nepotism case ‘so blatant as to beggar belief’: Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board

Mary Powderly-Hughes’ actions cost the public pursue more than $400,000 over a number of years

A former CIO at Victoria’s Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) falsified documents and her two sons changed their names so they could be employed without declaring their familial relationship, an investigation has revealed.

In what has been described as a “case of nepotism so blatant as to beggar belief”, the Victorian Ombudsman discovered that Mary Powderly-Hughes’ actions cost the public pursue more than $400,000 over a number of years. Powderly-Hughes quit her position at the beginning of 2017.

Victoria Ombudsman, Deborah Glass, said today: “Some cases I have investigated over the years seem so unlikely you could not make them up. Except, as in this case, they did.

“The facts of the case are that a senior public official at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade hired her son, not declaring their relationship, having falsified his CV and coached him prior to interview, three weeks after he changed his name to conceal the relationship,” Glass said.

After giving her son a pay rise and moving him into a permanent role, Powderly-Hughes then hired her second son, also falsifying his CV and interviewing him at her home after he also changed his name.

Glass said her office regularly encountered cases of nepotism but that they rarely displayed such calculated behaviour.

“Often the cases are minor, although wrong. Not this time, this was a case of deception where the family nest was feathered, plain and simple,” Glass said.

The MFB said it intends to refer the matter to Victoria Police.

Glass said the case demonstrated the need for public sector leaders to ensure they create an environment in which conflict of interest policies are embedded in the organisational culture.

“Although all three subjects are no longer in the public sector, I am tabling this report to expose both the reality and the danger of such behaviour. Even the most stringest policies cannot prevent what occurred in this case. But while the agency in this case cannot be held responsible for the deception perpetrated upon it, its conflict of interest policies were weak, and did not reflect best practice.”

This case goes back to 20 January last year when Stephen O’Bryan, Commissioner of the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) referred a complaint to Glass’ office about the agency.

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Tags cvDeborah GlassnepotismVictorian OmbudsmanMary Powderly-Hughes

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