The company at the centre of a corruption inquiry, Australian Water Holdings (AWH), claimed it was worth up to $200 million when it had only “$36 in the bank”.
Engineering expert Brian McGlynn was brought on by the NSW government in 2010 to examine the merits of a public-private partnership (PPP) with the Obeid-linked company.
Mr McGlynn on Friday confirmed to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that AWH was worth $36 at the time that it was putting its value at between $150m and $200m.
“There was some suggestion that at the time the proposal was going forward there was $36 in the bank,” counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson, SC, had said.
“It’s not a suggestion,” Mr McGlynn replied.
“We got accounts from Australian Water Holdings as part of our request for further information and that was in the accounts.”
Asked what rating he would give the deal with AWH, McGlynn said zero.
“Or half a star maybe,” he told the ICAC in a private interview.
He said he was horrified when a confidential cabinet minute he prepared in 2010, which urged the government to reject a deal with AWH, was substantially altered so as to support the proposal.
Metadata which might have revealed the author of the changes had been deliberately deleted, Mr McGlynn testified.
He said several phrases in the second version of the cabinet minute sounded like they had been penned by the then-CEO of AWH.
“(Reading it) was like having a conversation with Nick Di Girolamo,” Mr McGlynn said.
The ICAC is investigating the circumstances under which the allegedly doctored minute was twice submitted to cabinet.
Liberal senator and former AWH chairman Arthur Sinodinos was allegedly in line for a payoff worth up to $20 million if the PPP deal happened.
Mr McGlynn described an encounter with Senator Sinodinos during a meeting about the proposed PPP, in which the Liberal powerbroker told him: “The jury’s still out on you.”
“I don’t do this to be loved,” Mr McGlynn said he replied to Senator Sinodinos.
“I’ve got a dog for that.”
The ICAC heard evidence from lobbyist Michael Photios, who agreed he earned a $5000 monthly retainer from AWH.
But he says he rejected an offer of a success fee if the PPP went through.
The inquiry has heard the mooted fee was for $1 million.
“Consistent with my practice both prior, present and future, I did not engage in any success fee,” Mr Photios said.
The inquiry continues next week with corrupt ex-MP Eddie Obeid, Di Girolamo, and former NSW minister Joe Tripodi expected to give evidence.