The Sharobeem con: the whistleblowers and the gullible
ICAC has taken Eman Sharobeem apart in its investigation. It remains now with the courts to finish the job. Many will be wondering if the wet lettuce leaf will be applied upon this poor misguided soul and her spending habits of taxpayers’ funds. It’s too bad that all the gullible fools who clambered to photo ops with the ‘immigrant makes good’ princess won’t be exposed.
There were the four women who stood up to Eman Sharobeem as she rorted taxpayer funds for the needy.
Revealed: The women who spoke up and brought down Eman Sharobeem
Workers who spoke out about their boss at two not-for-profit community groups for newly arrived immigrant women – despite what some perceived as her bullying, manipulative behaviour and indifference from boards and government departments to their complaints.
Watfa El-Baf, Marie Abboud, Nevine Ghaly and Chanthaneth ‘Neth’ Chanthalangsy burst the bubble of the former Australian of the Year awards finalist’s fraudulent reign at the Immigrant Women’s Health Service and the Non-English Speaking Housing organisation.
Their action stands in contrast to state and federal politicians, government departments and agencies, and publicly funded organisations like the National Australia Day Council and SBS, who promoted a woman whose fraudulent back story and behaviour none appear to have checked.
Evidence at ICAC hearings has suggested suspicions about Ms Sharobeem emerged shortly after an auditor signed off on the 2013-14 IWHS accounts, and then voiced concerns to the board and Ms Sharobeem in September 2014.
In February 2015 ICAC received an anonymous tip that was relayed to the department of Family and Community Services. The next month, local FACS officer Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Gallagher wrote to NESH about an allegation of “fraud and misconduct involving staff and a member of the NESH’s board of management”.
“FACS staff will undertake a preliminary investigation,” she wrote.
According to NESH project manager Nevine Ghaly’s statement to ICAC, “Libby Gallagher conducted a meeting with the Committee and more or less said that she didn’t really look at anonymous complaints or letters. She said, ‘They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.”‘
But Watfa El-Baf, an IWHS part-time administrator, has detailed concerns from as far back as 2013 held by bookkeeper Neth Chanthalangsy.
“Between July 2013 and June 2015 there were occasions where Neth would show us some of the items Dr [sic] Sharobeem was being reimbursed for. These included paying for clothes, manicures and pedicures. I was also shown tax invoices for people I had never heard of.
“After hearing this and the fact that Dr Sharobeem was altering the database, I started to retain copies of emails and other documents.”
Ms El-Baf and fellow administrator Ms Abboud prepared a complaint in September 2015 that they sent in December to Christine Pollachini, a manager with Sydney South West Area Health Service.
Meanwhile, Ms Ghaly and Ms Chanthalangsy arranged to meet officials. Ms Chanthalangsy pulled out when it became apparent authorities would get involved. Ms Ghaly pushed on, saying: “I felt I had to bring it forward.” Ms Ghaly felt the NESH board didn’t take the FACS concerns seriously.
Ms Sharobeem’s behaviour raised suspicions, Ms El-Baf said.
“Marie found some documents that Dr Sharobeem had left on the photocopier … we would find pages that Dr Sharobeem had printed but left on the machine. On one occasion Marie showed me a document showing payments made to Eman West.” ICAC would hear this was a pseudonym used to rort extra payments.
A doctored pest control invoice for her home address raised eyebrows.
“Marie found a pest control tax invoice which had the address covered over with white-out and had been changed to Immigrant Women’s Health Service. At this stage Marie and I became concerned about what Dr Sharobeem was doing behind the organisation and everyone who uses the IWHS services.”
Ms El-Baf said: “Marie and I didn’t understand where all this money was being spent or why money was being spent on renovations, shutters and other things that we did not need to function as an organisation.
“The way she complained about the lack of money to pay all staff as we were underpaid and overworked. As well as we have some programs requested by participants but never seen the light because Eman said we don’t have money to fund it. This is why we collected documents and examples of suspicious purchases.”
Ms Chanthalangsy expressed concerns about a $3000 reimbursement to Ms Sharobeem that later emerged was for liposuction for her son Richard.
“There was one payment that I was uneasy about and I recorded my concerns in my personal note book. I also voiced my concerns to … the auditor”, she said.
“When I left IWHS Dr Sharobeem asked me for my personal note book and I told her I couldn’t hand it to her because it was my personal note book I have personal information, codes and passwords in this book.”
Ms Chanthalangsy accused Ms Sharobeem of misleading the board by blaming her for wrongly reimbursing the money.
In evidence, Ms Chanthalangsy said she challenged Ms Sharobeem about spending on nail and beauty treatment. “She said just do what I tell.”
When Ms Chanthalangsy questioned spending she was told: ”If you want the job just do it.” Ms Sharobeem would get angry when challenged, she said, making her fear she would lose her job.
In a statement to ICAC, Eleri Morgan Thomas said FACS had concerns as early as late 2014.
“In November 2014, the FACS contract manager for NESH reviewed its 2013/14 financial acquittals. The contract manager felt that something was amiss due to various financial anomalies. For example, NESH did not renew its public liability insurance.”