Lawyer blames GPC 'mismanagement' in compensation rort
DESPITE a lawyer's best efforts to convince a magistrate his client was mostly innocent in a four-year compensation rort, a Gladstone business owner has been fined $5000.
Gladstone Camping Centre owner Brett Wesley Bowman previously pleaded guilty in Gladstone Magistrates Court to one charge of the intent to defraud by producing a number of receipts, knowing they were false, namely of products sold.
The sentence was adjourned part-heard and brought back before the court on Friday.
The court heard Bowman's offending involved several Gladstone Ports Corporation workers over four years between October, 2012 and September, 2016. In 2017 investigations revealed GPC workers using the corporation's Health and Wellbeing Reimbursement Scheme incorrectly, using false receipts issued by Bowman's business.
The scheme is a program to cover costs of health and wellbeing products and activities.
Under the scheme, GPC reimbursed workers up to $299 for equipment purchased, including fishing rods.
The purchase receipts and a compensation claim form would be filed with GPC and the employee would be reimbursed for the purchase.
But the scheme only allowed workers to be reimbursed for certain items.
Workers were being issued two receipts by Bowman, 56 and his employees at Gladstone Camping Centre - the real document and a false.
Employees were using the false receipt to claim compensation they were not entitled to. The court heard Bowman's business issued 83 false receipts.
Consultant solicitor Barry Ross said although the GPC had "written themselves as victims”, Bowman and the GPC employees were the real victims.
Mr Ross said the GPC mismanaged the scheme to the point employees were unaware that what they were doing was wrong.
He said in several witness statements employees said they "felt sick” about using the fake receipts and "had no idea they were doing the wrong thing”.
But this was contradicted by other witness statements which revealed it was common knowledge among employees that the Gladstone Camping Store was the business to go to for false receipts.
Magistrate Dennis Kinsella said it was also a "double-edged sword”.
Mr Kinsella said the "mismanagement” of the scheme was taken advantage of by Bowman and the GPC workers.
Mr Ross argued that his client did not know the forms were being used in a claiming process.
He also said there were deficiencies in the evidence against his client and said GPC workers were "pressured” by the company to give evidence.
Mr Kinsella said it was clear Bowman was aware of the fraud, given he issued GPC worker two receipts, including a false one.
The court heard Bowman could have been fined $10,000 for the offending but Mr Ross asked for no penalty.
He said if there must be a fine, that it be no more than the $300-$400 that the GPC workers were issued for the offending.
But Mr Kinsella said Bowman's offending was of a larger scale and over a long period of time.
He said Bowman was a "cog” in the greater scheme.
Mr Kinsella imposed a $5000 fine, but did not record a conviction.