14 Dec 2022

Council executive who gave $7m sewage plant contract to cake decorator guilty of corruption

6:39 pm on 14 December 2022

By Ric Stevens, Open Justice Reporter of Open Justice by NZ Herald

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The former assets manager at the Westland District Council has been found guilty of corruption. Photo: Screenshot / Google Maps


A former council executive who arranged for a $7 million sewage plant contract to be awarded to a cake decorator has been found guilty of corruption.

Vivek Goel faced multiple charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for taking bribes in exchange for helping associates secure lucrative contracts when he was an assets manager at the Westland District Council.

Goel gave advice, shared confidential information and helped draft tenders to ensure a number of contracts were awarded to companies run by people he had relationships with outside of work.

At the time, he was responsible for 67 percent of the council's spending.

Goel has been found guilty of 14 charges of corruption and bribery of an official, four of corrupt use of official information and two of obtaining by deception, after an eight-week trial in the High Court at Christchurch.

The court was told that one of the contracts involved a $7m sewage plant project to be built in Franz Josef in 2016 after the previous one was wiped out by a flood.

The contract was awarded to south Auckland start-up company, Techno Economic Services (TES), run by a cake decorator.

The project did not go ahead and was subsequently subject to an inquiry by the Auditor-General.

Along with the Franz Josef sewage plant, TES won a contract for upgrades to the Kumara and Whataroa water treatment plants.

It was cancelled after the SFO investigation started, and was later awarded to another company.

The SFO said the director of another company, Amar Singh of ANA Group Ltd, paid Goel cash bribes in exchange for being awarded a series of contracts valued at almost $500,000.

Singh was tried alongside Goel and found guilty on 14 charges of corruption and bribery of an official and one charge of obtaining by deception.

He was also found guilty on nine charges of obstructing an SFO investigation by providing false or misleading information.

"These were critical infrastructure projects which had implications for the health and wellbeing of the local community," SFO Director Karen Chang said.

"By exploiting procurement processes designed to ensure public funds achieve the best outcome, Mr Goel put personal gain above the wellbeing of the community he was employed to serve as an official.

"This was an egregious breach of the trust placed in him by his employer and the public," Chang said.

"The offending was a sustained, deliberate effort to take advantage of the procurement process that Mr Goel himself had helped to draft for the council."

Chang said Goel helped bidders create tender documents, gave out confidential information and in one case took documents from a rival company's tender to use in a submission.

He had close personal connections with the companies involved yet did not declare a conflict of interest at any time.

"The defendants went to great lengths to hide their offending, including communicating through personal and dummy email addresses, WhatsApp and manipulating documents," Chang said.

Ashish Sevta, also of ANA Group, was found not guilty on one charge of obtaining by deception in relation to the Kumara and Whataroa contract.

Goel and Singh are scheduled to appear for sentencing in March.

* This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.