National Broadband Network (NBN) CEO Mike Quigley has devoted NBN Co resources to conduct an extensive review of his time with global technology company Alcatel-Lucent during its multi-national bribery scandal, in the face of persistent questioning from the Coalition.
Alcatel-Lucent was forced to pay US$137 million in fines to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission 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 this division of Alcatel-Lucent.
A report surfaced last week that Costa Rica country manager Edgar Valverde Acosta claimed in a statement that Quigley had met with the executives paying bribes to Costa Rican government officials, although it did not say that he had any knowledge of what was going on.
Returning from an overseas vacation to front a budget Senate estimates hearing last night, Quigley opened with a detailed explanation of his time at Alcatel-Lucent, and rejected the statement made by Acosta.
"Mr Acosta is a former Alcatel manager who has been jailed for 15 years for paying bribes," he said. "Mr Acosta has form not only in bribery, but also embezzlement. The [Department of Justice] documents tell us he and his family received $4.7 million in kickbacks. Senators, you will be surprised to learn that the corrupt Mr Acosta's untested declaration has been cited as a credible source by some who wish to damage me, and in so doing, damage the national broadband project."
Quigley revealed that, since the inquiries from the Coalition and the media regarding his time there, he had been in contact with the two firms — Proskauer Rose and Willkie Farr & Gallagher — that had investigated the case, and they had informed him that neither himself nor Beaufret had ever been interviewed, because they were not suspected of any wrongdoing in the matter.
When Coalition Senators questioned why taxpayer money was being spent to investigate the claims against the NBN Co chief, Quigley said that he "deeply regretted" that money was being devoted to refuting the claims, but said that the NBN Co board had approved the spending. He said that further investigation was detracting from the company's main objective.
"It is taking time out of the company's activities. It's a pity, but that's the way it is."
Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher questioned Quigley on how many of the 800-plus employees at NBN Co had previously worked at Alcatel-Lucent. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy rejected this question, stating that significant resources would have to be devoted to examining the CV of every single employee.