Sydney Morning Herald, Sean Nicholls, Thursday 28 May 2016:

A Senate inquiry has been asked to investigate construction firm Leighton's  involvement in the $16.8 billion WestConnex project after damning evidence about  offshore bribery practices from a former executive.

Last week former Leighton Holdings executive Stephen Sasse gave evidence  about corruption within the company's offshore arm, Leighton International, to  the inquiry which is examining foreign bribery.

Ms Sasse said Leighton International's board failed to act on concerns raised  by a whistleblower in 2008 and 2009 about corruption on the part of its overseas  executives.

He also said corporate regulator ASIC had told him it intends to charge  businessman Peter Gregg with false accounting offences over a $15 million  payment while he was Leighton's finance chief. Mr Gregg has described the  allegation as baseless.

It follows revelations by Fairfax Media about corrupt Monaco-based oil  industry firm Unaoil detailing millions of dollars of offshore payments by  Australian companies including Leighton Holdings, now called CIMIC.

A CIMIC subsidiary, CPB Contractors, has won billions of dollars worth of  joint venture contracts from the NSW government for construction of the  WestConnex motorway, Australia's largest transport infrastructure project.                               

Anticipated revenue to CPB is $900 million for design and construction of the  M4 East Motorway, $1.5 billion in relation to the new M5 motorway and $155  million for widening of the M4.

The Senate revelations have prompted the Labor MP for Summer Hill, Jo Haylen,  to write to the inquiry expressing her concern, noting the M4 East tunnel runs  through her electorate.

"Given the scale and impact of the WestConnex project, it is crucial that we  confirm that the entities and personnel within the Leighton group of companies  involved in the project are not in any way connected to the corrupt practices of  which your committee has recently received evidence," she wrote.

"Accordingly, I ask that your committee investigate the culture and practices  of the parts of the Leighton group of companies involved in the WestConnex  project."

The WestConnex project has prompted large protests in Ms Haylen's  electorate.

Ms Haylen said the community was "rightfully asking whether these recent  allegations of corruption represent a broader culture within the Leighton  Holdings group of companies".

She said in other countries' so-called debarment sanctions could be brought  against companies found to have engaged in corruption, preventing them from  participating in government work.

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, a member of the committee conducting the inquiry,  said in many countries Leighton would be barred from doing government work  "because of the seriousness of the corruption allegations against it".

"The question we need to ask is, why do we have a lower standard here in  Australia than they do in the UK and the US?"

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