It has spent $2 million to sort out a $300 matter. It shows how nasty and irresponsible bureaucrats can be
A $300 overtime claim by ambulance staff has led to a five-year, $2 million legal and wages bill -- paid for by Queensland taxpayers. And the wrangling between Queensland Ambulance Service management and the officers could go on for at least another year.
The saga started in 2001 and has seen four separate investigations, numerous court cases and staff suspended on full pay pending decisions. The wages bill alone for three staff suspended on full pay for three years and eight months was between $600,000 and $800,000. A source said the QAS legal bill had topped $1 million "a long time ago" and that the State Government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars flying relieving staff into Mount Isa and Doomadgee to cover the suspended officers.
The Industrial Relations Commission will soon hand down a finding in relation to a paramedic claiming unfair dismissal for his part in the overtime claim. Ken Gramm, 52, a decorated ambulance officer, was fired last year for allegedly falsifying records. Mr Gramm strenuously denied all allegations. He was suspended on full pay of $85,000 a year in February 2002. A Mount Isa magistrate ruled there was no evidence of dishonesty, and the Crime and Misconduct Commission also found no case to answer. But Ambulance Commissioner Jim Higgins ordered another internal investigation, and Mr Gramm was found guilty on five of 14 counts relating to overtime claims involving just over $300. Sources said the QAS rejected an early offer by Mr Gramm to repay the disputed amount.
Another court case begins on April 24, when a former communications operator takes on WorkCover after it refused a medical payout following his sacking from the QAS. Greg Haddow, 43, was also suspended on full pay in 2002 amid claims he helped Mr Gramm falsify the overtime. Mr Haddow -- who denied any wrongdoing -- was also cleared by the courts, the CMC and an internal investigation. But sources said QAS bosses "medically terminated" Mr Haddow last year after he had been on stress leave and Workcover refused a payout. Mr Haddow appealed against that decision, and his case is due to be heard in Townsville Magistrates Court.
The only officer who admitted a role in falsifying overtime claims was not sacked -- he has been promoted. He also had been suspended on full pay. QAS declined to comment, as Mr Gramm and Mr Haddow's cases are before the courts.
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