Allegations of significant fraudulent practices within Victoria’s colossal Big Build initiative have recently emerged, shining a spotlight on phantom labour shifts and unpaid allowances that are costing taxpayers millions.
The controversy has prompted a series of investigations into several substantial projects, including the Level Crossings Removal Programme and the $13 billion Metro Tunnel.
The Herald Sun reported today that informants have revealed a widespread scam where construction giants and rail managers overseeing the projects are charged for multiple shifts supposedly worked by single employees within a single day.
Many of these shifts, dubbed “ghost shifts”, either remain unfilled or are partially completed, while employees shuffle between different sites, enabling subcontractors to send multiple invoices.
In response to these claims, both the National Rail Safety Regulator and rail operator Metro Trains are now analysing the situation.
In one shocking example, a rail safety worker provided by Morson labour hire was recorded working a night shift at one location, followed by another night shift at a different location, and then a subsequent 12-hour shift the next morning.
Upon contact regarding the allegations, Morson Australia initially stated it had paused invoicing Big Build companies while conducting an internal audit of charged shifts.
This statement was later rescinded by the managing director, Sandeep Nair, who explained, “We are currently conducting an internal audit, so we can’t comment on the allegations.”
Anonymous sources revealed the scam could inflate some participants’ annual earnings up to $350,000 due to lucrative night and additional shift rates. However, they claim that some workers were not receiving their full entitlements or allowances.
One informant noted the potential risks, saying, “From a safety perspective, someone could be killed.” Several safety incidents have already allegedly transpired on rail network projects, such as heavy machinery collisions and train crushing “stop boards.”
A representative from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator confirmed they were “aware of allegations relating to fraudulent practices by labour hire companies contracted to major projects and railway operations in Melbourne.”
The official added that these allegations are under investigation by the ONRSR, which is primarily concerned with safety issues. If violations of safety laws are found, legal proceedings against the companies involved could ensue.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether corruption watchdogs have been alerted about the potential misuse of public funds.