Former school principal to publicly face Victorian anti-corruption commission

A former Victorian education department official will face IBAC next week probed on his alleged corrupt involvement in the botched AU$180 million Victorian schools IT project

A former Victorian education department official will be publicly questioned during anti-corruption hearings, despite his lawyers arguing it would prejudice any criminal charges he may face in the future.

The lawyer for Darrell Fraser, the former principal at Glen Waverley Secondary College, made an application that his client be questioned in private -- or not at all -- by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) because to do otherwise would damage his reputation.

Commissioner Stephen O'Bryan said it was possible Fraser would face criminal charges in the future, but it was speculative to suggest information he gave during the hearing would prejudice any future trials.

"Mr Fraser is a central person of interest," O'Bryan said. "I find it important that Mr Fraser's information for all such matters be heard in public."

The application by Fraser's lawyer, Antony Trood, was consequently declined by O'Bryan, despite Trood arguing that his client would have nothing to add to the IBAC inquiry.

The IBAC investigation, Operation Dunham, began on February 15, with counsel assisting Ian Hill QC highlighting Fraser's weighty involvement in the investigation since day one.

Previously, IBAC heard that a private company called Cortecnica Property Limited was registered in 2002 with its principle place of business recorded as at the secondary college.

Cortecnica, which later commercially developed the college's intranet system, had a director by the name of Frank Aloisio, who was also the school's technology and development manager. It was alleged by Hill that Fraser was instrumental in Cortecnica's inception.

Cortecnica folded six months later and in 2003 Fraser commenced discussions with Oracle Corporation regarding a collaborative project, Hill alleged.

Hill told the corruption commission that Oracle and the school then collaborated on the design and prototype development of a solution that leveraged off both the Oracle L360 solution and the Glen Waverley Secondary College's intranet, with the expectation that Oracle would take that platform to the rest of the schools in the state.

Previously, the commission heard that both Fraser and Aloisio left the school in early 2004, with Fraser promoted to the position of deputy secretary within the Department School Education Secretariat and Aloisio taking up a consultancy role at Oracle.

In 2004, the Victorian Education Department reported that it had started a research and development program to produce a proof-of-concept student-centric IT centre to support online teaching and learning. After finding no commercial system that matched the department's requirements, it signed a research agreement with Oracle Australia in 2004.

From the agreement came the Students@Centre portal, which was trialled from January 2006 at 12 government schools in Melbourne with around 630 teachers, 10,000 students, and 300 parents. That proof of concept was decommissioned in March 2007.

In November 2006, the then Premier of Victoria Steve Bracks announced a commitment to develop and deploy a state-wide online teaching and learning system to be called the Ultranet project.

The first request for tender for the development and management of the Ultranet project was released to the marketplace in August 2007, with IBAC hearing a company known as Cinglevue Proprietary Limited was first registered on the same day.

"Significantly, the directors of that private company were Mr Aloisio, a Gregory Tolefe, a Gregory Martin and a Tony Sala," Hill said. "At that time, Tolefe was employed by ASG Group Limited, and it appears that Aloisio was now engaged by ASG on a consultancy basis. Martin was an employee of Oracle."

It was then revealed that at the conclusion of the first Ultranet tender, ASG and RM Asia Pacific were the only two shortlisted companies selected to proceed.

In 2008, Aloisio ceased his engagement with ASG and commenced employment as a business analyst with CSG, Hill told IBAC.

"It was around that time that CSG acquired Cinglevue Proprietary Limited for a sum of approximately AU$5 million," he said.

It has been alleged throughout the 16 days of hearing that Fraser did everything in his power to ensure his favoured IT venture won the multimillion-dollar contract and stacked the tender evaluation board with his friends and associates.

IBAC previously heard that a former Victorian education official purchased almost AU$110,000 worth of shares in print solutions provider cum IT services firm CSG, after it was awarded the controversial Ultranet IT contract, the day after a department board meeting discussed the tender.

The anti-corruption hearing revealed that former Loddon-Mallee regional director and Ultranet project board member Ron Lake's shares were purchased with 20 percent of his superannuation; it was also found that Lake had not owned shares in any organisation before that.

Eight days into IBAC's Operation Dunham Investigation, Lake admitted that he directed his assistant regional director and girlfriend Julie Baker to also purchase CSG shares.

It has since arisen that other former department employees also purchased shares in the Australian Securities Exchange-listed CSG.

CSG was awarded the contract for a multi-million dollar state-wide Department of Education IT project back in 2010.

Spiked in 2013, electronic learning initiative Ultranet was created to bring an online education network to connect students, teachers, and parents by providing access to online learning materials and student information.

Ultranet was rarely used due to the amount of technical issues it faced from day one and the scheme was consequently scrapped when costs blew out from AU$60 million to the AU$180 million total.

Over the 16-day hearing, IBAC has also heard that Fraser accepted overseas junkets and secretly paid AU$1 million to prop up CSG.

Earlier, former acting department secretary Jeff Rosewarne failed to recall specific dealings or conversations related to allegations of corruption within the education department during his time there.

Rosewarne also denied knowing Fraser had made a AU$1 million payment to CSG, despite having approved the payment as department secretary.

Fraser is expected to be questioned publicly in Melbourne on March 16 where he will be the last witness to take the stand for Operation Dunham.

With AAP