‘Ghost’ shifts: Big Build invoicing claims referred to police

‘Ghost’ shifts: Big Build invoicing claims referred to police

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The state opposition has urged Victoria Police to investigate allegations taxpayers were charged for unfilled “ghost” shifts on some of the state’s biggest infrastructure projects.

The national rail safety regulator and Metro Trains are also investigating claims of fraudulent invoicing by labour hire companies contracted to remove level crossings and build the Metro Tunnel rail project.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday acknowledged an “issue” had been identified with potentially fraudulent practices by labour hire companies, but denied it was widespread on the government’s building sites.

“There will be a proper accounting for what’s gone on there,” Andrews said.

Opposition transport infrastructure spokesman David Southwick.Credit: Luis Ascui

“There are millions and millions of hours of work that are undertaken on projects large and small … we have a zero tolerance approach.

“We expect everybody involved in every project is doing the right thing and if they are not, they will be dealt with and the consequences will be very, very significant.”

The investigation comes after the Herald Sun reported that an internal audit was under way after subcontractors allegedly sent fake invoices to Big Build companies, including one example where the same worker was signed in for a night shift at two different sites.

Andrews said he believed the alleged incident was “isolated” and warned that any companies found to have sent fake invoices would be excluded from government projects.

“These people don’t work for the government, they work for contractors … it’s important we find out exactly what’s gone on here,” he said.

On Friday, opposition transport infrastructure spokesman David Southwick referred the matter to police, and said he was concerned Victorians were being forced to pick up the bill for “ghost” shifts on projects that were already over budget.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan at the Victorian Tunnelling Centre in Chadstone last month.Credit: Eddie Jim

In the letter to police, seen by The Age, Southwick said the allegations were “of the utmost seriousness”.

“Beyond a morally egregious abuse of taxpayer monies … we hold grave concerns that those responsible may be guilty of an offence under the Crimes Act,” he wrote.

A spokesman for the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator said the agency had the power to start legal proceedings and stop unsafe work if its investigators identified a breach had occurred.

“It should be noted that labour hire companies, as is the case with all contracted entities, have safety duties under Australia’s Rail Safety National Law,” the spokesman said.

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