Public servant submits 29 fake medical certificates in sick leave ploy

Bureaucrats from the Department of Home Affairs have flagrantly rorted taxpayers by claiming fraudulent sick leave, including one who submitted 29 bogus medical certificates and another purportedly trying to save colleagues from contracting an exotic disease.

The misconduct in the department overseen by minister Peter Dutton is contained in internal department documents obtained by Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws.

Officials from the Department of Home Affairs, which includes the Australian Border Force, have been caught out submitting fake medical certificates.

Photo: Wolter Peeters

The documents show an internal investigation found one staff member provided 29 fraudulent medical certificates between 2011 and 2017.

In a letter to the employee, who had since resigned, an official says an investigation found they were “untruthful and lacked integrity” when they submitted the false certificates to gain sick leave.

Two doctors had told investigators they did not issue the certificates. They included one doctor to which 21 certificates were attributed, who no longer worked at the medical clinic for multiple dates the employee claimed to have attended.

Upon being told of the initial investigation, the bureaucrat claimed they were at times “bedridden [and] unable to get to the doctor's”.

The department is overseen by minister Peter Dutton.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Officials told the ex-employee they had completed annual online training in fraud and corruption and should have known their conduct was wrong.

However the former worker escaped sanction because they no longer worked for the department.

The freedom of information documents also revealed another public servant apparently changed the font on a legitimate medical certificate, then photocopied it to create a fraudulent version that falsely extended their sick leave.

The employee had written to a co-worker claiming he was “going up to see the GP today” before supplying the dodgy document.

Upon being informed the ruse was up, the employee admitted wrongdoing.

“I don’t remember exact details as it was a long while ago ...  I believe I photocopied the original. I truly cannot remember why I didn’t go back to the medical centre,” the staff member told investigators.

The employee said they became ill after returning from abroad and "the medical centre suggested a quarantine for a few days to ensure it wasn't anything I picked up while overseas".

The employee incurred a fine, which was withdrawn from their pay in eight instalments. In imposing the sanction, an unnamed official noted the worker had displayed “a level of remorse”.

Confirmation of the incidents follows a departmental review that this year found staff had colluded to file fake medical expense claims, while others lacked the training to do their jobs or had repeatedly abused their powers.

The Department of Home Affairs was created in December last year and combined existing immigration, border protection, law enforcement and intelligence units.

In a statement, the department said it "takes all allegations of misconduct and corruption seriously".

"Robust action is taken against individuals where corrupt conduct is identified. This also includes referring matters to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity," it said.

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