Level The Playing Field – Integrity

In 2012 the Victorian Ombudsman produced a report in relation to the integrity of Greyhound Racing Victoria. The report, titled Victorian Ombudsman – Own Motion Investigation into Greyhound Racing Victoria June 2012 – is available in full on-line and makes for interesting reading. Unfortunately most participants probably have never heard of the report. Most won’t have read it. Everybody needs to : Ombudsman’s Integrity Report.

The report highlighted the actions of those entrusted to run our great sport – their unprofessionalism and their actions that boarded on corruption.

The 7 main points are highlighted below – the report identified:

1. GRV staff were betting on greyhound races during work hours including those in integrity-related positions.

  • One employee, a senior manager was found to have placed 4,409 bets over a three year period totalling $508,705 dollars during WORK TIME. Remarkably, when identified by the ombudsman, this employee’s contract was not torn up nor were they marched out of the building in disgrace. They were issued with a first and final warning and in the months that followed they were given a $10,000 bonus and a pay rise. Eventually this employee left the GRV in March 2012.
  • Then CEO John Stephens admitted to betting on greyhound races during work time
  • 11 GRV staff were found to have been involved in betting during work hours including stewards: of these 11 people – 3 stewards were terminated, 1 received a first and final warning, 1 form analyst resigned, 1 form analyst was given a first and final warning, 2 graders were terminated, 2 senior managers given first and final warnings, and 1 data operator given a first and final warning.

2. GRV staff owned greyhounds – this presents integrity issues

  • How can GRV staff assure participants that they are acting in a professional manner and with integrity to everyone? They have their own interests to consider.
    • 3. The Tender Processes and Practices of GRV

      • GRV would continually award contracts without the correct procedures being followed – staff including then CEO would use the same contractors for personal developments. This presents further integrity issues – we need to ensure that tenders are being awarded fairly – and in align with what the industry expects.

      4. GRV lack of gift and hospitality declarations

      • The ombudsman’s report highlighted that GRV staff failed to correctly record gifts and benefits. Whilst receiving gifts and benefits is not necessarily illegal – what is received needs to be recorded and be transparent – which is wasn’t. This leads to allegations of corruption and other concerns regarding integrity.

      5. Hospitality Expenditure

      • GRV would use corporate credit cards and funds to pay for a number of non-core business related expenses such as alcohol. Public servants have faced criminal prosecution for this type of activity.

      6. Staff were given termination payments

      • Staff found in breach of GRV policy by betting on greyhound races during work time were given a ‘golden handshake.’ GRV informed the industry that their positions where terminated. This again raises integrity issues.

      7. Staff use of email system

      • Staff employment conditions stipulated the use of work email and internet based programs. Staff were able to access betting sites during their shifts to place bets on races including greyhound racing. Emails sent to one another also contained content of a pornographic and explicit nature – again in breach of policy.
      • The ombudsman report identified a number of issues involving greyhound racing in Victoria – some of which are still on-going and have not been adequately addressed. The report has identified a number of issues that affect all state authorities. Changes have occurred in Victoria and they needed to. We need to ensure that this keeps occurring – both here and throughout Australia. Everybody needs to read the ombudsman’s report – changes needs to occur and integrity needs to be maintained.

        The Australian Greyhound industry and the punting public need to have complete trust in those entrusted with the role of overseeing it. State authorities need to show that they are doing all they can to ensure integrity and transparency. Continuing on from our swabbing story last week – let’s take a further look at some other issues. There are countless others and everyone needs to raise their concerns.

        GRV Staff

        GRV staff identified by the ombudsman are still employed by GRV. One questions how this can ensure integrity if some of these persons are still in charge of overseeing the greyhound racing industry? If they have been found responsible of breaching GRV policies, then they were responsible for unethical behaviour. How can they still be employed in these positions?

        Race Seeding

        One concern is the seeding of greyhounds into races. In blatant terms one could consider this a true example of race fixing. By seeding greyhounds, stewards are attempting to shape the fields and influence the outcome of a race. Of course in greyhound racing, things happen during a race, so why do we need greyhounds to be seeded? This is a quick fix that would improve transparency and integrity. No more greyhounds seeded into races, concerns addressed. Allegations that race fixing occurs disappears.

        Box Draws

        Box draws are a unique issues. It is all well and good to say that they are conducted by a computer. However computers can be programed to produce particular results under given circumstances. The fairest way to draw a race, and box draws is by the banjo system – which should be recorded or displayed online to ensure transparency and fairness to all.

        Telephone Checks

        The ombudsman report touched on the surface of an organisation failing to be managed in a manner that was expected of it by the industry that supported it. It was an unethical organisation.

        Furthermore – the ombudsman report touched on the surface where the industry needs to dig deeper. The investigation needed to delve into the phone records of GRV staff and stewards identified in the investigation. Confidence and transparency needs to be built. When people entrusted with the administration of this industry are placing substantial bets of races it begs the question, ‘To what extent are these people prepared to go to ensure they reap a benefit (reward) from their investment?’ Let’s remember, it was these same people who were responsible for grading dogs into the races, seeding dogs into field and the box draw. They were also responsible for deciding which dogs were subjected to the swabbing process during a meeting.

        By comparing betting records with telephone checks, investigators may be able to identify a particular pattern of bets between GRV staff and trainers. Was there any communication that would help identify a particular pattern? Can we conduct this inquiry to negate the risk that any trainers were involved?

        Investigations need to be made to ensure that these issues didn’t occur and indeed are not currently occurring. A formal inquiry should be conducted by experience investigators with sufficient experience and knowledge within the racing industry to ensure that these issues and more are completely investigated. This may require commission of inquiry powers to ensure such an investigation is successful. The persons identified in this report oversee the integrity of the industry, they are judge jury and executioner.

        Race Swabs

        Similarly the process of determining which dogs are swabbed at a meeting needs to be overhauled. If officials have placed substantial bets on a particular dog and the trainer is made aware that the dog will not be subject of a swab, than the officials bet had a greater likelihood of success. The ombudsman’s investigation did not delve deeply enough into the activities of those persons involved. Similarly, where were the offenders managers in this process, what role did they play and why did their supervision not detect this activity?

        How do we stop this? While not saying that it does occur, let’s prove that it doesn’t. Dogs that are to be swabbed on race night should be drawn randomly and in the public spectrum for all to see. All race winners should be swabbed. All swab results need to be published.

        These are just five issues of many that need to be urgently addressed. The industry needs leadership and governance by corporate business professionals. Integrity needs to be built and participants need confidence that those in charge are doing everything they can to level the playing field. Victoria in particular would benefit from a Commission of Inquiry, and those that do the wrong thing are in turn held suitably accountable for their actions. These small few can’t be allowed to damage the industry for all involved. Queensland has begun its Commission of Inquiry and industry participants are eagerly anticipating the findings.

        The ombudsman’s report touched on the surface concerns about GRV – but the findings relate to each state authority. We raised some issues – a few of many – and you are encouraged to raise your issues and concerns. Again, there is no proof that this has happened – but let’s eliminate any suggestion that it has, or it is currently occurring.

        Past Discussion

        1. Well said Jacob! Reminds we of a story we published back in 2010 – 3 years before the truth came out. http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&cad=rja&ved=0CGkQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.australianracinggreyhound.com%2Faustralian-greyhound-racing%2Fvictorian-greyhound-racing%2Fwhat-is-wrong-with-victorian-greyhound-racing%2F24438&ei=p-obUqjrE-P6iQevnoHoCw&usg=AFQjCNHrLswUoMNKs7SuRMKSUhSbyzcqxA&sig2=RaJ9flph72NQNIfQs6lznw&bvm=bv.51156542,d.aGc

        2. Hi Maurice – forgive me for sounding dumbfounded but can you please elaborate on where you have seen these implementations by GRV on the recommendations as outlined in the ombudsman’s report?
          These are issues affecting greyhound racing nationwide. One only has to look at the Azzopardi debacle in NSW to see the extent of problems facing the industry.
          They may have implemented some changes but the governing of the industry nationwide leaves further concerns to industry participants. I would just like to see transparency and fairness – like most participants

        3. Hi Maurice – forgive me for sounding dumbfounded but can you please elaborate on where you have seen these implementations by GRV on the recommendations as outlined in the ombudsman’s report? These are issues affecting greyhound racing nationwide. One only has to look at the Azzopardi debacle in NSW to see the extent of problems facing the industry. They may have implemented some changes but the governing of the industry nationwide leaves further concerns to industry participants. I would just like to see transparency and fairness – like most participants