Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Auckland Council official accused of bribery in awarding contract to his friend


An Auckland council official took a bribe in exchange for awarding his friend a lucrative contract.

Sundeep Dilip Rasila was employed by Auckland Council as a “procurement relationship specialist” between 2012 and 2016, according to court documents seen by Stuff.

The 42-year-old’s role was to manage contracts with suppliers, particularly office supplies.

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In 2015, the council supplied property files to would-be home buyers and others on CD but was looking to change to USB sticks.

Rasila told the council he could get the best price by contacting a Chinese supplier and buying in bulk, the documents said.

Using his personal email address, Rasila contacted a Chinese company, requesting a quote for bulk delivery of USB sticks with the council’s logo printed on them.

He also contacted his long-time friend, Sunil Chand.

Rasila had met the 56-year-old Mt Roskill resident while they worked together at a commercial printing company.

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Rasila had even lived with Chand’s family for six years.

Chand owned his own printing company, On-Time Print Finishers.

Rasila asked Chand to also prepare a quote for the council, using information from the Chinese company’s quote.

Despite Rasila telling the council that he would get the USB sticks directly from China, he and Rasila arranged for On-Time Print to buy the USB sticks and on-sell them to the council at a profit, according to the court documents.

Rasila then drew up a spreadsheet that included quotes from other companies.

In order to make On Time Print’s bid appear as the lowest bidder for the contract, he left out a lower bid and the quote he got for dealing directly with the Chinese supplier.

He knew the contract would be awarded to the lowest bidder, the documents said.

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On Time Print was awarded the contract, initially for $152,250 (excluding GST) for the supply of 22,000 USB sticks.

The council was unaware that Rasila had actually obtained a quote that would have saved the council $27,150.

The council was also unaware of Rasila’s connection with Chand and On Time Print.

Rasila’s secrecy breached the Council’s Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest policies.

On Time Print later lowered its price to $140,150 (excluding GST) after removing the requirement to print the council’s logo on the USB sticks.

Rasila left the council in 2016 but continued to liaise between the Chinese supplier, Online Print and the council.

The contract netted Rasila’s On Time Print $57,589 in profit, after invoicing the council and paying the Chinese supplier.

After delivery of the first bulk lot of USB sticks, Rasila went to Chand and asked for $15,000 in payment for facilitating the contract.

He wanted it in two parts – $7500 straight away and $7500 after the delivery of the second shipment.

Chand didn’t have the cash but handed over a cheque which Rasila then cashed, depositing the bulk of it in his personal bank account.

When spoken to by the Serious Fraud Office, Rasila admitted taking the payment and Chand admitted paying it, but both refused to say more.

The court document does not reveal how bribery and corruption were uncovered.

Rasila has admitted a charge of bribery and corruption which faces a maximum jail term of seven years.

Chand has admitted giving gifts to an agent which carries the same maximum sentence.

Lawyers for the pair have indicated at an earlier court appearance that they will seek a discharge without conviction for their clients.

If successful, it would mean that both men would keep their previously clean criminal records.

The pair are due to be sentenced at the High Court in Auckland on May 12.

Stuff has approached the Serious Fraud Office and the council to ask if either of the authorities have investigated all prior contracts Rasila was involved in to ensure there was no pattern of fraud.

Neither organisation has so far responded.


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