The chief executive of the National Broadband Network Company, Mike Quigley, is set to face some tough questioning from coalition senators on his involvement in the 2005 Alcatel bribery scandal when he returns from an overseas vacation to front a budget estimates hearing next Thursday.
NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley
(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has now finalised the case against Alcatel-Lucent, which copped US$137 million in fines for bribes paid to government officials to secure contracts in south-east Asia and Latin America between 2001 and 2006.
At the time, both Quigley and NBN Co CFO Jean-Pascal Beaufret were in top roles in the American division of the company and for months now the chief executive has defended himself against allegations of mismanagement during his time heading up the division of Alcatel-Lucent.
Although Quigley has said neither himself nor Beaufret were ever interviewed by the SEC about their involvement in the bribery scandal, the CEO was recently forced to apologise at the first sitting of a joint parliamentary committee investigating the roll-out of the $35.9 billion NBN project for previously claiming that one of the governments plied with bribes — Costa Rica — was not in his jurisdiction at Alcatel, when in fact it was.
A report has now surfaced in the Australian Financial Review that a statement provided as evidence in the case by Costa Rica country manager Edgar Valverde Acosta has claimed that Quigley met with the executives paying bribes to Costa Rican government officials.
There is no claim that Quigley had any knowledge of the payment of these bribes, however.
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday that when Quigley fronts a special NBN Co budget estimates in Canberra on Thursday, he will be invited to give "a full and frank explanation" of the claims.
"I mean he's the one that said I wasn't responsible for Costa Rica and then had to say, 'no, I'm sorry, what I said was wrong, I was responsible.' Well that creates concerns. That raises questions and issues in people's minds. I think Mr Quigley's got quite a bit of explaining to do and he really needs to actually put all of the facts on the table," Turnbull told 6PR yesterday.
"And it's not satisfactory to have indignant statements 'I wasn't responsible for this area. I didn’t know anything about it', and then to come back and say 'Oh dear I made a mistake, I'm sorry'. Well, hang on, how can you overlook a whole country? It doesn’t seem very credible does it?
"I mean you really would think that somebody that was as disciplined and as focused and as experienced as Mr Quigley, if he was responsible for Latin America would have been able to say 'Yes, I was responsible for Latin America. Yes, there was corruption activities going on there. I wasn't personally aware of it. When I found out about it I did A, B, C, D and E.' That's what you'd expect," Turnbull said. "But we didn't get that. We've had a series of statements, inadequate in terms of the detail and then a number of statements which have turned out to be incorrect."
Turnbull suggested that as Quigley is heading up the NBN project, and has awarded contracts to his former employer, Alcatel-Lucent, the taxpaying public is entitled to know the full details of his involvement. Quigley has previously stated that both he and Beaufret abstained from being a part of NBN tender decision processes when their former employer is one of the applicants to the tender.
According to Turnbull, a simple Google search by the government may have given it insight into the case when Quigley was hired for the NBN project.
"I think it shows incredible incompetence. You really wouldn’t have had to hire a top head-hunter to find that out. A bit of googling, a few inquiries, would have led you to that conclusion," he said.
"But what troubles people is firstly the lack of candour in that [Quigley] did not put all those cards on the table. He should have said, 'look there is this bribery investigation going on, so this is coming up in the lift as it were and you should know about it. And I can satisfy any concerns you might have about any role I may be thought to have had in it.' So he could have done all that and I think that would have been the right thing to do."
NBN Co said the statement made by the former Costa Rice country manager is "the word of a convicted criminal who is serving 15 years imprisonment on corruption charges".
"His declaration has never been tested in court and was submitted as evidence in a case that was thrown out in January," NBN Co said. "Even if accepted as fact, nothing he says constitutes evidence that Mike Quigley was ever involved in corrupt conduct or knew of its existence."
NBN Co reiterated that Quigley was never interviewed by US authorities about this matter.
"Similarly, Alcatel-Lucent itself is on the record as saying it 'found no evidence that either Mr Quigley or Mr Beaufret had any involvement in, or knowledge of the actions of the former Alcatel or its subsidiaries' employees that are outlined in the allegations presented by the US Department of Justice or the Securities and Exchange Commission'."