Sydney Uni IT manager pleads naivety

Summary:The man at the centre of a corruption investigation into the hiring of ICT contractors at Sydney University has denied any implication of wrongdoing at a series of public hearings this week, claiming that he is a victim of his own naivety.

The man at the centre of a corruption investigation into the hiring of ICT contractors at Sydney University has denied any implication of wrongdoing at a series of public hearings this week, claiming that he is a victim of his own naivety.

(My trusty gavel image by Brian Turner, CC2.0)

Sydney University IT manager Atilla Demiralay is accused by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of allegedly engaging in conduct that resulted in IT contractors being hired over a period of five years from Succuro Recruitment — a company in which Demiralay and his wife hold an interest.

Demiralay was drilled before a public hearing this week, stating that while he was aware of a business venture set up by his wife and another party, he was unaware that he had been made a shareholder in Succuro.

Demiralay recalled in the hearing that his wife had asked him to sign documentation relating to the establishment of a new company in 2008, saying that her accountant had advised that it was set up with his name for "tax purposes". Demiralay allegedly took his wife's words on good faith late one night, and signed the document without reading it.

"Based on the input from my wife and the, the husband and wife relationship that, that, that we had, she assured me that everything was in order and I, and I signed. Like I said, it was quite late at night, I walked through the door and that was put in front of me and I signed it," he said.

"I didn't even read it. I didn't even read it," he said. "It was quite late at night, I walked through the door and I believe I was, I was out with some, with some friends, so I had a few drinks, I had an enjoyable evening, came home, came home and, and we just had a quick discussion about it.

"She was sitting at her desk in the, in the kitchen, I walked over, gave her a peck on the cheek and then she said, 'oh I got some paperwork from the accountant'. I didn't even see that [it was from Succuro Recruitment]," he said.

The share agreement wasn't the only document that Demiralay admits to not reading. Over the course of the hearing, Demiralay said that he routinely skips over reading material related to his job as an IT manager at the University of Sydney, including code-of-conduct documentation and recruitment guidelines.

"You're saying that you would not necessarily read a document before signing it?" asked Jeremy Morris, counsel assisting the inquiry.

"Correct," answered Demiralay.

"Call it being naivety, call it what you like, but that is the case," he said.

The inquiry also heard that Demiralay's wife, Virginia Kantarzis, hadn't meant to make her husband a shareholder in the company, making a mistake in the paperwork. She put the mistake down to the fact that she was just about to give birth.

"This was on the 16 July, which was the day I was going into hospital, and I remember trying to get all my emails done that afternoon, all my bags were packed to go to the hospital," she said, adding that during the end of her pregnancy she was forgetful and absent minded due to hormones.

"My understanding and my only explanation is I was in no state of mind to be doing anything like that, because I know how I was towards the end of my pregnancy; I was very forgetful. I would find salt and sugar in the fridge, I'd leave the house without my wallet, there were lots of things going on for me. My primary focus was having our baby, which we conceived through IVF. I was not focused on anything else, clearly, because in hindsight I don't think I would ever be signing any document without reading it, let alone setting up a company. So I accept responsibility," she added.

Instead of having Demiralay sign documents relating to Succuro, Kantarzis had intended him to sign documents related to a family trust and the creation of a new company called I-Secure. Kantarzis added that she had endeavoured to keep Demiralay's name away from anything to do with Succuro, due to his position at Sydney University.

"I had spent all my time working for Succuro making sure I had nothing to do with Sydney Uni so it wouldn't compromise my husband's position. I would not then go and start a company or join a company and put my and my husband's name knowingly on Succuro's company," she said.

The hearing was adjourned on Wednesday evening. A final judgment will be read in the coming months after a deliberation period.

Topics: CXO, IT Employment, Legal

About

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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