Auckland Transport manager took more than $1m in bribes

  • 27/09/2016

An Auckland Transport contractor gave council staff more than a million dollars in bribe payments, international travel, gifts and swanky dinners, only to inflate his bills to the council to recoup costs, the Crown says.

Former senior Auckland Transport manager Murray John Noone, 53, faces six corruption charges over taking what prosecutors say was about $1.1 million in bribes between 2006 and 2013.

His co-accused, 52-year-old Stephen Borlase, who owned and ran engineering consulting company Projenz, is accused of bribing Noone and one other council staffer, and of inflating invoices to the Rodney District Council.

Opening the prosecution's case in the High Court at Auckland on Tuesday, prosecutor Brian Dickey told the court Noone - who managed the council's contracts for its northern road maintenance - had been given about 300 payments totalling $1.1m from Projenz and about $80,000 in gifts, including 11 overseas trips that had nothing to do with work.

He said there was no evidence Noone had done any consultancy for Projenz during the period as claimed, despite him being given both monthly and lump sum payments by the company.

"Noone was managing contractors and strategic decisions and approving invoices for contracts," Mr Dickey said, adding the accused's subordinates had signed off on millions of dollars of contracts and invoices from Projenz.

Despite making declarations of conflicts about other work, Noone never told the council about the payments from Projenz.

Projenz had then inflated bills to RDC to recoup the costs of the bribes to Noone and other council staff, Mr Dickey said.

In the period of the alleged offending Projenz's invoices to the council rose from $4m to $16m, becoming the bulk of its business, he said, adding it appeared Borlase "strategy" had worked.

"The payments ... were treated as costs of doing business with RDC."

Borlase's company had given gifts to other employees at the council's transport division, including overseas and domestic travel, accommodation, entertainment, including a dinner at Auckland's up-market French Cafe, and even a wedding gift to a staffer's daughter - all which were written up as expenses, he said.

But Borlase says there was nothing untoward about the success of his business and it was normal for companies to foster good relationships with clients through marketing.

Earlier this month, another senior AT manager, Barrie George - who reported directly to Noone - was sentenced to 10 months for taking about $100,000 in bribes, including alcohol, travel and accommodation.

Prosecutors said George went to council management in 2012 with complaints about a culture of gift-giving between council officials and contractors, leading to an investigation.

Rodney District Council was disestablished in 2010 when it became part of the Auckland super city, with its transport work moving over to Auckland Transport.

The judge-alone trial is set down for six weeks.