WA Health rules out legal action over $81m data centre blowout

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WA Health rules out legal action over $81m data centre blowout

Won't chase criminal, civil charges.

WA's Department of Health has confirmed it won't take any further disciplinary action against former workers who were found signing off on data centre purchases way above their financial delegation.

Auditor-general Colin Murphy exposed the procurement scandal in February, when he revealed the agency’s ongoing data centre deal with Fujitsu threatened to balloon to $175 million despite originally being valued at just $45 million.

He tracked down dubious orders that missed checks and balances and left WA Health paying for hardware and floor space it didn’t need.

WA's corruption watchdog decided the case wasn't serious enough to justify a full investigation, but the parliament’s health and education committee has since probed the government’s options for exceptional action against the former staffers and the agency itself over the procurement breaches.

It received advice from the state’s public service commissioner that a spectrum of actions from performance management to criminal charges could be taken against public officers exceeding their authority, “depending on the severity” of the conduct.

But WA Health has confirmed it will not take any further punitive action against the two former staff members sacked over the ordeal, ruling out criminal or civil legal action.

It will, however, effectively blacklist one of the former staffers from future employment within the state government after they failed to respond to the agency’s request to provide formal explanation of their conduct.

“Information has been placed on relevant departmental records that will act as a ‘flag’ for any prospective employment of former Employee A within the public health system or the wider public sector,” the government said in its response to the committee.

The second sacked worker did submit a written justification that satisfied officials that the former employee's conduct could be managed as a “performance issue”, rather than malicious conduct.

WA Health has also begun the process of passing off the surplus data centre capacity bought off Fujitsu to its fellow state agencies, including the Department of Transport and Main Roads, the Public Transport Authority and the Department of Commerce.

The government insists Health has now patched up the organisational holes that allowed the multi-million dollar blowout to occur.

The Department of Finance has clarified a procurement reporting regime that will allow it to keep tabs on agency contract variations, and will implement an enhanced training regime for procurement officers.

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