HSU's cosy, corrupt reality uncovered

NEPOTISM, cronyism and suspicious spending resulted in union boss Michael Williamson, his family and friends reaping millions of dollars from the troubled Health Services Union during his 15-year reign.

NEPOTISM, cronyism and suspicious spending resulted in union boss Michael Williamson, his family and friends reaping millions of dollars from the troubled Health Services Union during his 15-year reign.

The final report by Ian Temby, QC, and accountant Dennis Robertson has been obtained by Fairfax.

More than $20 million in questionable payments was paid to suppliers to the union without any form of tendering or contracts. More than $5 million went directly to companies operated by Mr Williamson and his wife, while $1.5 million of union funds was spent buying and renovating a warehouse, which was then used as a rehearsal studio for commercial use by his son, Christopher, who was also an employee of the union.

United Edge, a company of which Mr Williamson was a third owner, received $4.7 million in the four years up until September 2011. United Edge, which provided IT services without having to tender, operated rent-free from the HSU east headquarters.

Then there was the $384,625 that Mr Williamson's wife, Julieanne, received for allegedly doing the union's archiving from 2005 to 2009. Mr Temby is particularly critical about this transaction. "Assuming that the work was actually done, and done by Mrs Williamson alone, and she worked a 37.5-hour week throughout the 50-month period collecting folders, dismantling and collating them for scanning, week after tedious week for 52 weeks of the year then she was being paid at a rate close to $34 per hour plus GST . . . a high hourly rate for what appears to be basic clerical work."

While Mr and Mrs Williamson declined to be interviewed by Mr Temby, Mrs Williamson wrote to Mr Temby saying: "I felt I should have been charging $200ph, as the work was downright disgustingly filthy."

Acting HSU east general secretary Peter Mylan told the investigators that Mr Williamson told him it had been decided to scan the union's records and his wife was doing it. Mr Mylan "had never seen her actually doing the work, but he knew she had done it", the report noted.

Mr Mylan explained that the union's librarian was doing the scanning, but when the librarian told Mr Temby "she did not know what he was talking about", Mr Mylan was asked "to consider his position". By the following week the story had changed somewhat, said the report. Mr Mylan told the investigators he had made some "assumptions and presumptions" and had not seen the files brought in for scanning, but he still believed Mrs Williamson had done the work.

"The truth of the matter, we think, is that there was a system set up, which saw regular and large sums paid to Williamson's wife, that Mylan became aware of the system later on and went along with it . . . He does not know what work, if any, Mrs Williamson did in any given two-month period. Nor do we."

The Williamsons also received a discount when they hired the union's architect to draw up plans for their holiday home. For the four years up until 2011, architect Ron Mah Chut was paid $3.4 million by the union. Mr Mah Chut told the investigators Mr Williamson entered into a verbal agreement for an annual retainer of $88,000.

This entailed spending one day a week scouting for sites that might be suitable for the union to develop into retirement villages or holiday destinations, "none of which were ever, in fact, purchased", the report noted.

Mr Temby and Mr Robertson also noted that nepotism was rife within the union. Mr Williamson's brother, Darren, his sister-in-law, Monique Irvine, his close friend, Cheryl McMillan, and her sister-in-law, Julie Astill, were among the dozen highest-paid people within the union.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said some of the conduct reported was reprehensible.

"It's incredibly concerning and it's just a betrayal of members' trust," he said.

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