Lying to cover up a criminal history

A Decade of Background Check Porkies

10 years on and how has the background checking landscape changed? In some ways the changes have been dramatic; and in others, we have blinked and the major issues are still the same! So what was going on when we look at background checking in the press 10 years ago when PeopleCheck first opened for business?

  • The medical world was reeling from the well-publicised “Dr Death” case study in 2005 where Jayant Patel was employed by QLD Health without due diligence that may have uncovered the dubious past and medical malpractice that resulted in serious injuries and deaths in his patients and a suspension of his practicing licence. The case resulted in several inquiries, recommendations to change the Medical Practitioner Registration Act 2001 and confirmation that Dr Death had caused the death of 13 patients in Australia and possibly up to 17.  For Dr Death, there was time in prison and although his conviction was overturned, he was banned from registering as a practitioner in the medical health profession.
  • Still with QLD Health and a decade on and Hohepa Morehu-Barlow (aka Joel Barlow) is up for parole this year, after stealing $16.9 million from the government department, despite his history of fraud in New Zealand that was not identified due to international due diligence not being undertaken. The good news is that out of this case, criminal records between Australia and New Zealand have been shared in our public sector; however, in today’s international market that leaves a lot of the world, causing employers to consider the importance of international background checking.
  • In 2006 we were still talking about Newcastle’s own Frank Abignail, Jnr from “Catch me if you Can” fame (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) – Glenn Norman McKinnon Oakley.  Oakley falsely represented himself as holding academic qualifications for the purpose of applying for positions of employment with the Maritime Services Board, NSW Health, the Department of Business and Regional Development, Newcastle Port Corporation, Sydney Water and for an appointment as Conjoint Professor to the Graduate School of Business at the University of Newcastle! Oakley created and used false documents as proof of academic degrees (and even had these certified by a Justice of the Peace), citing three qualifications from various reputable Australian universities! After the matter was referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, ICAC made recommendations that organisations verify the qualifications of senior staff members with ICAC commissioner, Irene Moss, stating that Oakley’s conduct had “serious ramifications for probity and the recruitment process in the public sector”.
  • APRA released its new Fit and Proper Prudential standard in March 2006, putting the onus on regulated institutions to ensure that their boards, senior management and other responsible persons were fit and proper. 10 years on, PeopleCheck’s family of clients is expanding rapidly with organisations seeking our expertise in navigating background checking for compliance, with both APRA as reporting requirements continue to develop and ASIC with similar requirements for responsible managers.
  • The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (as it was then known) ruled in June 2006 that employers could not lawfully refuse a job applicant who had a criminal record if the crime had limited relevance to the position. A case in which a candidate was discounted from a Communications Officer role based on a previous drink driving conviction saw the HREOC looking at discrimination based on criminal record for what may have been the first time! 10 years on and this issue is still topical. In the past few months there have been several articles in the press on this very matter and the message is the same – the Australian Human Rights Commission under the AHRC Act has the power to inquire into any act or practice that may constitute “discrimination” and the importance of assessing a candidate’s criminal record in relation to the inherent requirements of their role remains critical for employers.
  • KPMG’s 2006 Fraud Survey found that the majority of frauds were perpetrated by outsiders, with management level employees perpetrating 4% and 18% of frauds in the financial and non-financial sectors respectively. 10 years on and fraudsters have definitely worked out that the best way to penetrate an organisation’s defences is from within, particularly with the developments in technology now so enhanced in mitigating outside threats. KPMG’s 2016 Fraud Survey found that “the most common perpetrators are business ‘insiders’, with frauds attributable to management averaging $5.7m – over double that of non-management employees”.
  • In November 2006, the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW ruled in favour of an employer that sacked a worker who provided a misleading reference of her past employment (in providing contact details for her father), which was a critical case for the importance and use of reference checks. This case took a detailed look at the inclusions and omissions of the employment contract in relation to background checks. 10 years on, most appointments/offers are clearly outlined in employment contracts as contingent on successful background checking and background checking is now an accepted part of the on-boarding process.

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