Fraud case diary: Week 2 – “Opening the gate”

Fraud case diary: Week 2 – “Opening the gate”

In the Dunedin High Court former Otago District Health Board CIO Michael Swann and businessman Kerry Harford are each facing three fraud charges. Here is a roundup of the main points from the second week of their trial.

Friday 21 Nov

An assistant accountant for the Otago and Southland District Health Boards says he became aware of Sonnford Solutions in around 2000 or 2001 because invoices were all personally delivered by Michael Swann, who would ask for immediate payment, the Otago Daily Times reports.

The jury first hears the term “opening the gate” in relation to the case. The phrase appears in the Sonnford support services contracts, a security consultant tells the court. But he says he found it unusual, as most support contracts are specific about the service to be provided.

Monday 24 Nov

The ODT reports the board’s CEO Brian Rousseau telling the court he had also never heard of the term “opening the gate”, although he had seen “hundreds” of contracts in his time at the health board and in the IT industry.

Tues 25 Nov

A DHB senior business analyst tells the court he spoke to Swann about Dunedin hospital’s three main IBM RS/6000 servers (supplied in the 1990s by IBM business partner Logical CSI), and about how maintenance costs for them had gone over budget. Swann responded, “What to you want me to do – turn the things off?”

Wed 26 Nov

The Otago and Southland health boards’ chief financial officer says he began examining the Otago IT department’s spending in 2006, the ODT reports, and found the costs “proportionally skewed” towards outsourcing rather than wages. The largest payments, he tells the jury, were to Sonnford Solutions, a company unknown to him.

Thurs 27 Nov

Dunedin hospital’s IT technical administration team tell the High Court they never saw outside contractors maintaining the servers.

An IBM executive is called to give evidence, the ODT reports. Kirk Abbott, IBM business manager, tells the court the services for which the health board paid nearly $17 million would have cost less than a fifth of that, had they been provided by IBM.

Swann’s wife, Anna Devereux, tells the court Swann’s salary from the board, $3300 a fortnight in 2006, was paid fortnightly into her bank account, the ODT reports on Friday.

The Crown case may be completed by 28 November.

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