CBA denies IT whistleblower was sacked over bribery concerns

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CBA denies IT whistleblower was sacked over bribery concerns

Faces parliamentary committee grilling.

The Commonwealth Bank has denied a whistleblower in the IT bribery case engulfing two of its former executives was sacked for refusing to sign off on the software contract at the centre of the scandal.

CBA group executive David Cohen yesterday told a parliamentary committee investigating the impairment of customer loans and broader bank conduct that CBA had "considerably" overhauled its systems and policies to make life easier for whistleblowers.

Cohen was responding to a report in The Australian this week which revealed the bank's former head of software services, Marcus Nicholson, was sacked two months after refusing to greenlight a $10.5 million contract with ServiceMesh.

According to the report, Nicholson said he directly informed CBA CEO Ian Narev and former CIO Michael Harte about his concerns with the contract, but claims he was victimised by his superiors and then sacked after raising the alarm.

However, Cohen yesterday reiterated CBA's claims that Nicholson had been made redundant in a restructure for reasons unrelated to his actions regarding the ServiceMesh contract.

Regardless, Cohen said the bank had overhauled its process for dealing with whistleblowers as a result of the IT bribery case as well as similar problems with whistleblowing in the bank's financial planning and life insurance scandals.

He said CBA had introduced a "hotline" for whistleblowers run by a third party to allow concerned employees to notify the bank of potential problems.

Former CBA IT executives Keith Hunter and Jon Waldron have been charged with several counts of bribery for allegedly taking over $2 million in bribes from ServiceMesh founder Eric Pulier in exchange for awarding the $10.5 million deal to the company.

The contract involved software that formed the foundation of the bank's core banking modernisation. ServiceMesh was bought out by CSC in 2013.

Pulier resigned from CSC just days before he was due to be let go for violating CSC's code of business conduct over "conflicts of interest and appearance of improprieties".

He is being sued by CSC for at least US$98 million (A$122 million) over alleged "fraud, breach of contract, and breach of the duty of loyalty".

CBA was sued by Ace Foundation - the US-based not-for-profit NSW Police alleges was set up to faciliate the payments to the executives, and which has since rebranded to CoreTech Foundation - last year for "wrongfully" freezing the $2.53 million paid to Hunter and Waldron.

The parties reached an out-of-court settlement last month. 

Hunter and Waldron have pleaded not guilty to the bribery charges.

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