CCC finds Murdoch University livestock manager guilty of misconduct

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CCC finds Murdoch University livestock manager guilty of misconduct

Murdoch University livestock manager Kim Thomas was revealed in a report by the Corruption and Crime Commission in Washington this week.

The CCC investigation into Thomas' conduct was launched after reports of non-compliance with biosecurity requirements.

Commissioner John McKechnie QCMcKechnie QC said the investigation uncovered serious breaches of various biosecurity laws and rules Mr Thomas was found to change ownership records of cattle owned by Murdoch University in order to indicate that the cattle were owned by another party, then to change the records back.

As an example, he might lend a bull to a breeder, transfer the bull's name into the breeder, and then transfer it back to the bull when the bull is returned, Mr McKechnie said.

Mr McKechnie said that Thomas gained acclaim because of his misconduct, and he said the financial benefit was not enormous.

He would show cattle at the Royal Show that were in fact Murdoch cattle, but he would claim that they were his.

He often won the prize for Illawarra cattle that he wrongly claimed were his, but were in fact the Murdoch University cattle, so Murdoch missed out on any acclaim that there might have been. Mr McKechnie believed that personal aggrandisement was the motivation behind Mr Thomas's actions.

Regardless of the acclaim or financial benefit, Mr McKechnie said that the CCC's main concern was the breach of biosecurity.

The investigation was conducted principally because of the suspected biosecurity hazards, according to the report.

He said that biosecurity rules are there for a good reason, and they are there to protect Australia's reputation and protect Australia's herd.

Murdoch University operates four farms with expenses of close to $1.2 million and revenue of less than $265,000.

Thomas was responsible for the operational and financial management of the farms and associated livestock.

The lack of leadership and governance of the university contributed to misconduct, according to the CCC's opinion.

He had many supervisors, none of whom knew much about the farming business, he was no doubt efficient at the farming business, so they left him alone.

Once this became known, Murdoch hired consultants and is working with those consultants to put in place proper governance and processes. Professor Deeks said in a statement that the university does not agree that a 'breeding ground for misconduct' was created.

This appears to be a situation in which a trusted employee did not act with the integrity and professionalism expected of him. Professor Deeks said that the situation was disappointing that Murdoch University has begun a disciplinary process to deal with the issues identified in the CCC report. A spokesman for the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development department said livestock traceability and biosecurity had never been more important than it was currently. It is important for all persons involved in the livestock industry to make sure their obligations are properly understood and met.

Failure to meet statutory obligations puts our livestock industries at risk.