AUSTRALIA’S military is set to repay its $40m to a company for providing an intermediary services provider, amid allegations that the defence’s top brass knew about the issue.
The Australian Defence Force’s chief of staff and a senior military officer were among the five who spoke to the Financial Review, which revealed the repayment plan to be in the works.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Australian Defence Department said it was making a full financial recovery to cover its losses and the costs incurred during the period in question.
“It is important to note that the Government has never knowingly used an intermediary or any other financial entity for commercial gain,” the statement read.
It added: “We take our obligations to the public seriously and are committed to working with the Australian Government to ensure our services are available to all Australians in a timely and cost-effective manner.”
The plan was announced on March 23, two weeks after the Federal Government announced it was cutting back on the use of intermediaries.
Intermediaries provide information to military services, allowing them to access information that is often limited by government regulations.
AUSTRALIAN military services and their intermediaries have been plagued by allegations of wrongdoing over the years.
Last year, a Senate inquiry found that the military had failed to properly vet the individuals it hired as intermediaries, leading to them being involved in serious wrongdoing.
As a result, the government has introduced legislation to allow the Defence Force to require intermediaries to undergo a criminal background check and to issue them with their current address and passport numbers.
Earlier this month, the Defence Department acknowledged that the current system was not effective in detecting and removing fraud.
‘This was not the right way to go’The Defence Department had not been able to identify and remove all of the fraud from its intermediaries because the process was not designed to do so.
That was not until the military began to investigate the matter, the department said in a statement.
Since the investigation, the defence has been able, through an internal review, to identify a number of people that may have breached the requirements of the Federal Security Law, the statement said.
While the Defence had not identified any of the people involved in the fraud, it was not able to provide any evidence as to how they had accessed the service.
However, it added that the Defence could no longer provide any further information on the matter because it had not yet received an order from the courts.
Facing criminal charges would be a ‘significant’ step, the military said, but the process would be relatively straightforward.
Under the scheme, the Government will repay the intermediary company up to the total amount owed to the Defence for services rendered, it said.
The company will also receive a $40,000 penalty payment.
Australia’s military services have faced allegations of widespread wrongdoing since the start of the year, when the Government announced a $30 million cut to their defence budget.
Military personnel accused of sexual misconduct were reportedly given the option to refuse to be interviewed by the Government, with the decision not being made.
But the Defence said the policy had been widely criticised and was now changing.
An inquiry is now underway into the Defence’s handling of sexual assault claims, with former service members alleging that it is failing to investigate alleged perpetrators.
During the past year, the Federal Parliament has heard from hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in the military.
Former defence minister Michael Keenan resigned after he was accused of covering up evidence of a serious rape and assault in 2014.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also faced calls to apologise after he referred to the “vile and offensive” word “f*cking” in reference to a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier.
Other senior figures, including the commander of the Australian Army, have also been accused of misconduct.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot said on Monday he was reviewing the allegations against his defence chief and his chief of defence staff, and the Prime Minister said he would “totally respect” the military’s decision.
He also promised to take a “firm and transparent approach” to dealing with the allegations.
On Monday, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said he was “shocked and appalled” by allegations against the chief of the Defence Intelligence Organisation.
Abbott has said the Defence will “stand firm against those who would malign our service”.
The Prime Minister has also defended the service’s handling the sexual assault allegations, saying it had been able “to ensure the women who made these allegations were fully and accurately investigated”.
He said he had ordered a “comprehensive review” of the service and that a report would be prepared “very soon”.
‘I think it’s important’The Government has defended the conduct of the military in relation to sexual