July 21, 1987

Article at The Sydney Morning Herald

NEWS | SRA employee pilfers for TV cameras

WILSON da SILVA and ROSS COULTHART

A railway employee appeared on the Willesee program last night and demonstrated the laxness of depot security by pilfering SRA property before waiting cameras.

And four members of the SRA Transport Investigation Branch (TIB) appeared on the program and said that despite assurances to the contrary from the Minister for Transport, Mr Mulock, corrupt employees continued to steal from the SRA. 

“It just appears to be one great cover-up,” said one of the detectives, Mr Rod Axford. “Nobody wants to know what’s going on, especially internally.”

Mr Axford, asked why he thought information about such activity had been kept under wraps, replied: “I think you’re getting too close to the top.”

The detectives said they decided to appear on the program because the SRA was doing nothing to stop the rot even when it was investigated and exposed by the TIB.

“It gets to a certain level,” said Mr Axford. “You’ve conducted the inquiry so long, you’ve gone so far. Be thankful for what you’ve got, get out. Leave it alone. It’s as simple as that.”

The men backed up corruption claims, first outlined in the Herald last week, about the theft of goods in transit in the Trackfast system, petrol theft, armed hold-ups of railway stations and illegal use of requisition books.

Yesterday, Mr Richard Lodge, also of the TIB, demonstrated the ease with which goods could be obtained from depots before the Willesee program’s cameras. Mr Lodge filled a fake requisition for SRA property available in the Chullora depot, and drove his utility inside.

Fifteen minutes later he emerged with goods including 150 litres of petrol, four portable coolers, two car batteries and sets of spanners.

The Minister for Transport, Mr Mulock, criticised the Herald yesterday for not giving him documents which detail widespread losses of SRA property.

He demanded that all documents used in a report last Thursday be handed over to the Government to help in inquiries into the allegations. But the Herald declined because to do so would reveal sources and prejudice further inquiries.

The newspaper also said that all the files cited in its report were SRA documents which should be freely available to the minister.

Last week, Mr Mulock confirmed that all the matters raised by the Herald had been investigated by the SRA. Yesterday, he said it was by no means certain that all the documents were with the SRA.

“In any event, the SRA is in possession of tens of thousands of files and millions of pieces of paper,” he said.

In particular, he said, the SRA could not find the report on lost SRA assets, prepared by a Mr Dale Mulligan, which detailed how $2.5 million worth of assets went missing in 1985-6.

The Herald has corroborated the existence of this report with other sources. But it is possible the report was never passed on to SRA management from outside the Special Projects section of its Transport Investigation Branch.

Mr Mulock said the continuing failure of the Herald to provide the documents suggested it was more interested in creating a sensation than seeking the truth.

“It is becoming apparent that many of the items presented by the Herald as facts are actually far from the truth,” he said.