Qld Health worker jailed for fudging overtime claims

A FORMER Queensland Health worker who stole almost $40,000 from taxpayers during the government department's payroll debacle has been jailed for three months.

Caboolture woman Karma Elms, 36, pleaded guilty on Monday in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to 46 fraud-related offences committed between May 2010 and August 2011.

Crown prosecutor Sam Bain told the court Elms used her senior position to fudge her timesheets over a 15-month period to claim $39,352.19 in overtime she was not entitled to.

He said none of the money Elms stole had been paid back.

"The money was deposited into her bank account and subsequently spent," he said.

"Analysis of her bank account revealed about 24% of the money was taken out in cash and the remainder was used on rent, gift hampers, purchases at department stores and other online transactions.

"This was planned and systematic offending and a gross breach of trust."

Defence solicitor Mark Williams said Elms was under an enormous amount of stress at the time and was working long and tedious hours, in some cases up to 16 hours per day.

He tendered character references to the court on Elms' behalf including one from a current Queensland Health employee.

"The offending took place during the Queensland Health payroll debacle where there was a lot of confusion and disarray at the time," he said.

"She attributes her offending to the level of stress she was under at the time."

Magistrate Wendy Cull sentenced Elms to two years behind bars but ordered she be released from jail after serving three months of the sentence.

Elms will remain on parole following her release for a further two years.

The Crime and Corruption Commission, which headed the investigation, said in a statement after the sentence was handed down that Elms' jailing should serve as a warning to all public servants.

CCC acting executive director Paxton Booth said any public sector employee who defrauded the government could expect to be caught and prosecuted.

"Dishonestly claiming and being paid overtime for work you have not done is a serious criminal offence," he said.

"It is totally unacceptable that public money was diverted from other essential health services which should benefit all Queenslanders."



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