State’s billion-dollar debt collector faces ‘allegations of corrupt conduct’

The Queensland Government agency responsible for collecting more than $1 billion of state debts — the State Penalty Enforcement Registry (SPER) — is being assessed for “allegations of corrupt conduct” after a referral by its own department.

Jun 18, 2020, updated Jun 18, 2020
Former deputy premier Jackie Trad. (Photo: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

Former deputy premier Jackie Trad. (Photo: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

The ABC understands the administration of the State Penalty Enforcement Registry (SPER) was referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) by Queensland Treasury last month.

Queensland Treasury is yet to reveal what prompted the referral but it has confirmed an internal investigation of the matter has been underway since mid-May.

“Due to the nature of the investigation underway, Queensland Treasury is unable to discuss the particulars of issues involved,” a Queensland Treasury spokesperson said.

The CCC has confirmed its involvement in the matter about “allegations of corrupt conduct”.

“One matter was assessed and referred back to Queensland Treasury to deal with,” a CCC spokesperson said.

“A second matter remains under assessment by the CCC.

“It is important to note an assessment is not an investigation.”

The referral follows a two-month investigation by the ABC into the administration of SPER.

SPER is a division of the Office of State Revenue within Queensland Treasury and is responsible for the collection and enforcement of unpaid infringement notice fines, court-ordered monetary penalties and offender-debt-recovery orders.

As of May, SPER had $1.291 billion in debts on its books.

The office has struggled to collect money from those owing, with more debts registered with SPER than were finalised in May.

A spokesperson for Treasurer Cameron Dick said specific comment was unable to be provided due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

“The Treasurer welcomes the referral of the matters to the CCC, where they can be fully investigated,” the spokesperson said.

“The Treasurer has made it clear he expects the highest standards of probity and integrity within Queensland Treasury.”

The delivery of the SPER scheme was previously under the control of former Queensland treasurer and deputy premier Jackie Trad, who resigned her role in early May over unrelated matters.

New Under Treasurer Rachel Hunter commenced in early May following Ms Trad’s departure.

Trad said she was not aware of the referral and declined to comment when contacted by the ABC.

Trad revealed in October last year that more than $300 million in SPER debt was “impaired” and would be difficult to recoup.

– ABC / Exclusive by Jack Snape and state political reporter Allyson Horn

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