ICAC alleges AU$113K a 'work of fiction' by Sydney uni IT manager

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has commenced its public inquiry into former university IT manager Brett Roberts for allegedly arranging fake invoices for work on technology projects that were never undertaken.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption's (ICAC) public inquiry into Brett Roberts, the former IT manager of the University of Newcastle, the University of Sydney, and Macquarie University, has alleged that he created fake invoices that amounted to a total of AU$113,715.

In the opening address of the inquiry on Monday, counsel assisting the commissioner Anthony McGrath cited that Roberts was allegedly involved in arranging fake invoices between 2005 and 2013 to be paid by each of the universities at different times for work on technology projects that were never undertaken.

Due to appear before the commission on Tuesday, Roberts allegedly made out several invoices under the name of Management & Professional Services Pty Ltd (MAPS) -- a company owned and controlled by Christopher Killalea, Roberts' former work colleague and friend at the time -- with a majority addressed to himself and approved by him.

McGrath said there was no evidence that any such work was ever performed by MAPS for any of the universities, even though Roberts had introduced Killalea and MAPS to all three universities for potential work.

ICAC alleged that AU$27,750 was paid by the University of Newcastle, AU$43,065 was paid by the University of Sydney, and AU$42,900 was paid by Macquarie University. At the same time, there was an attempt to allegedly obtain a further AU$97,350 from Macquarie University on another set of fake invoices, but it was unsuccessful.

According to McGrath, some of the payments, all of which were electronically transferred, were deposited into the bank account of MAPS. However, Killalea said he had no knowledge of the deposits, suggesting that the invoices were made on a "patently false basis".

Taking the stand as the first witness of the inquiry, Killalea said, in examining copies of each invoice that were submitted to the University of Newcastle, the University of Sydney, and Macquarie University, that there are several anomalies. These anomalies suggest that he was not responsible for producing any of the MAPS invoices made out to each university.

He said the formatting of the invoices, the description of the services, and the rates that were charged for the services did not match the invoices he created.

"I didn't create any of those documents," he told the commissioner.

Other times, payments were made directly to Roberts' bank account, or deposited in Roberts' company, RobCon, which he owned and operated.

"Roberts then used the money in the RobCon account for his own purposes," McGrath alleged.

McGrath also highlighted that when invoices were issued to Macquarie University, the details of the project were "grandiose in its terms". For example, one invoice detailed that MAPS was involved in "licensing and maintenance of MAP Pro-Technology - Scoping and management module inclusive of asset assessment tool and methodology option".

"It appears to have no relevance at all to the work to be done by MAPS for the university as apparently suggested by Mr Roberts to Mr Killalea," McGrath said.

"If no work of the sort outlined in the MAPS invoice was done, then the invoice was, like others before it to the other universities, a work of fiction."

ICAC also claimed that Roberts had requested iPath, a company that designs and builds Wi-Fi networks and is owned and controlled by Roberts' former colleague Emiel Temmerman, to create an invoice for work that he had supposedly undertaken by MAPS for Macquarie University.

According to ICAC, MAPS was apparently unable to invoice the university directly, because it was not an accredited supplier to the university and therefore could not get paid at the time.

"It seems that Mr Roberts came to Mr Temmerman with a quite unusual request," said McGrath.

The ICAC inquiry, which will take place over the next three days, is also expected to examine the systems of each university, which were apparently exploited by Roberts, including whether the existing systems are adequate to prevent other incidents from occurring.

A similar case was addressed by ICAC in 2012, when it found former University of Sydney IT manager Atilla Demiralay guilty of corrupt conduct.

Demiralay was accused of using a company he held a significant interest in to hire IT contractors, who were mainly family and friends, over a five-year period.

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