NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, has played down the current controversy surrounding his former employer, Alcatel-Lucent’s, recent $US137 million settlement for bribery cases brought by US authorities.
Speaking at a media event at the company’s Sydney headquarters, Quigley said he was not shocked by the bribery cases, explaining that the complexity of Alcatel-Lucent’s business was partly to blame for questionable sales activities of French telecommunications giant Alcatel from the 1990s through its 2006 merger with Lucent Technologies.
“Let me stress, Alcatel wasn’t alone in this,” he said. “When you are operating 130 or 140 companies and 60,000 people and a $20 billion Australian company it’s complex.”
“I think in the last three years there has been 44 companies that have been subject to exactly the same thing. Companies like Siemens, GE, Daimler, Fiat, Volvo, Shell… so [Alcatel-Lucent] are one of quite a number of companies who had to at that time take the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act very seriously, but I can tell you it’s a very difficult job to monitor 130 or 140 companies in dozens and dozens of different languages when you have a couple of individuals who commit acts of fraud.”
Quigley said neither himself nor NBN Co chief financial officer, Jean-Pascal Beaufret, were once questioned during the five-year investigation by the US Securities Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.
“They were not interested in us,” he said. “In that whole time if they had thought we had any responsibility in any way I’m sure they would have contacted us. They never did.”
Quigley added that he deemed any fraud within the NBN Co to be unacceptable, and would additionally take full responsibility should fraud occur.
“We’re talking her about a company in her in Australia with 600 people… the governance is very different than a $20 billion company across 130 countries,” he said. “But we have all of the processes and procedures in place to make sure we are watching things carefully.”
Earlier today Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said there were continuing questions that the Government and the NBN Co’s management needed to answer.
“Senior officials of the National Broadband Network were in charge at Alcatel when illegal bribes were paid,” Abbott said. “More importantly, the US regulatory authorities identified a culture of lax management at Alcatel.
“Now, the same people who were responsible for the culture of lax management at Alcatel are now running the National Broadband Network and the last thing we want is lax management in charge of a $50 billion-plus enterprise, particularly given this Government’s appalling record of mismanagement when it comes to the stewardship of public money in things like the school halls program and the roof batts program.”
Abbott also attempted to draw a link between the cost of the NSW and Queensland floods to the Australian economy and the ability of the government to fund the NBN.
“The undoubted substantial costs of responding to the flood disaster in Queensland and now New South Wales call further into question the wisdom of spending $50 billion plus of taxpayers’ money on a National Broadband Network, which can be perfectly well provided in most instances by competition between private sector businesses and I really think that the costs of responding to the flood disaster really emphasise the need to think again on the National Broadband Network,” he said.
Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @tlohman
Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu