Despite chugging his way through a couple of litres of Sydney water, no amount of water appeared to refresh Senator Arthur Sinodinos' failing memory as he endured hours of cross-examination over his role in a company at the centre of a corruption probe.
The problem for Sinodinos is that over the four years he was deputy and then chairman at Australian Water Holdings serious corruption was taking place under his nose but he saw nothing, did nothing and asked no questions.
Too busy 'transitioning' to the Senate to notice the company's dire financial straits: Senator Arthur Sinodinos. Photo: Chris Pearce
He failed to notice that the company had splashed out $164,000 on a corporate box at Olympic stadium or that it had run up $28,000 in limousine hire. Sinodinos was quick to point out he had only once used a hire car to go to Parramatta. It was the ratepayers of Sydney Water who were being billed for these outrageous expenses which Sinodinos claimed to know nothing about.
The senator claimed that he was too busy ''transitioning'' to the Senate in September 2011 to know that the company was in such dire financial straits it had to tap the family of corrupt former kingpin Eddie Obeid to inject $400,000 to pay its tax bill.
Even harder to believe was that while the company was going to hell in a hand basket it was paying up to $17,000 a month to Liberal Party lobbyists.
One of these was Sinodinos' good friend Paul Nicolaou. Although Nicolaou and Sinodinos saw each other weekly due to their respective positions as the party's chief fund-raiser and treasurer, Sinodinos claims he was unaware that for the three years Nicolaou's company was raking in $5000 a month courtesy of AWH.
''Are you saying to us that Nicolaou not once during that period of time ever said to you, 'Hey Arthur, thanks very much for the retainer'?'' asked counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson, SC.
''No'', replied Sinodinos.
The senator was similarly unaware that AWH had donated $72,000 to the Liberal Party while he was on the board of AWH and at the same time party treasurer.
The inquiry has heard that the company was billing Sydney Water millions of dollars each year for salaries of its directors, despite there being only 10 employees and one contract.
Sinodinos was defensive about his own $200,000 salary for being a ''door-opener'' and for working what the inquiry heard was less than 45 hours a year.
He protested his travelling time from the CBD to AWH's offices in Bella Vista, in the city's north-west, had not been added in. And what about the times at functions at people's houses that he had promoted AWH? demanded Sinodinos.
''Should we add on 90 seconds over a gin and tonic to the other 45 hours a year,'' quipped Watson.
But perhaps most crushing for Sinodinos was the revelation that his successor, Michael Costa, the former State Labor treasurer, did what Sinodinos failed to do throughout his four years at AWH - go through the company's books.
Costa has told the inquiry he was horrified by what he found.