ICAC examines cash deposits of former Sydney Uni employee

On the final day of its investigation into the University of Sydney's IT department, the state's corruption commission is looking into several deposits of over AU$2,000 made into the bank accounts of the former head of projects Jason Meeth.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has on Friday highlighted AU$24,000 in cash that was deposited into the accounts of Jason Meeth, the former head of projects for the IT department at Sydney University, during the period of December 2012 through November 2013.

Meeth is currently under investigation by ICAC under Operation Elgar, which alleges he actively advocated the use of a non-government accredited IT solutions firm, Canberra Solutions, and seeks to determine whether he engaged in a course of activity on behalf of the University of Sydney that was partial in terms of his dealings with Canberra Solutions.

On Friday, Warwick Hunt, counsel assisting the commission, produced a summary of Meeth's bank accounts, one in his name, and another in both his and his wife's names.

The summary showed a total of nine cash deposits were made at the Hornsby and North Shore Bankwest branches for the 11 months ending November 2013, totalling AU$24,000.

Meeth testified these deposits came after money was given to him and his wife from their respective parents, as well as money he had put in his "money tin" from his wallet and miscellaneous savings. Meeth said although this process of keeping cash at home has since ceased, he estimated it contained up to AU$15,000 at any one time.

Meeth also told ICAC he was building a house in 2013.

Whilst under the employ of Sydney University, Meeth was responsible for hiring contractors to work in an IT support capacity for the university's IT department. These contractors, however, needed to be produced by C100 accredited companies, as stipulated by university guidelines.

Throughout the course of the ICAC investigation, it has been alleged that nine candidates that worked at the university, by way of Meeth, were affiliated with Canberra Solutions, a non-C100 accredited company.

On Monday, the corruption commission argued that Balu Moothedath was the "true principal" of Canberra Solutions, and on Friday, Meeth told ICAC he knew Moothedath prior to his appointment at Sydney University, as they worked together in a previous role at Aristocrat.

Meeth said Canberra Solutions was used at Aristocrat "once or twice" after Meeth approached Moothedath asking if he knew anyone capable of carrying out a certain IT-related task. Meeth's boss at Aristocrat signed off on the contracting of a Canberra Solutions candidate, without any cost comparison from other firms similar to Moothedath's.

Meeth affirmed that Canberra Solutions provided candidates at a market competitive cost, and cited this as the reason for using a contractor from their candidate pool.

"What most impressed me about Canberra Solutions was Balu," Meeth said. "On a number of occasions I went to Moothedath with a problem and he was very quick to offer a solution, and his advice would solve the problem. Which is different to what I have previously experienced."

Hunt produced an email trail that originated from Moothedath sending the resumes of two candidates to Meeth. Meeth then forwarded them on to Dennis Apostolovic, another former employee of the university who worked with Meeth. Apostolovic received the forwarded email from Meeth, which included the text: "Would you please shortlist both of these PMs but first find out which C100 panel Canberra Solutions is using".

Apostolovic testified on Monday that he had, throughout his employment, raised concerns to Meeth over certain candidates' eligibility.

Apostolovic was involved in the employment process of Canberra Solutions affiliated contractors by way of receiving resumes from C100 companies, as well as being present during a large portion of interviews. He claimed he was unaware at the time of any conflict of interest Meeth had with the potential candidates.

Throughout Apostolovic's testimony, it was highlighted he had been dismissed by the university, and had received a settlement as a result of his employment termination. He denied he was slanting any evidence against Meeth as a result of that hostility.

It also surfaced on Friday that Meeth engaged in a phone conversation with Moothedath sometime between 2014 and 2015, where the word "bribe" was used by Moothedath.

"I can recall a telephone conversation, when Moothedath made a comment about making bribes, I took this as a joke," Meeth said.

"[In response] I believe I said something along the lines of, 'We've got nothing to worry about, We've not done anything wrong'."

During that conversation, Meeth alleges he said to Moothedath that he put forward the best candidates.

ICAC Commissioner Megan Latham interjected, asking Meeth why it did not cross his mind to say to Moothedath: "What the hell are you talking about?" Meeth replied that he took Moothedath's comment in passing as a joke.

"It was a bad joke, but I didn't think it could be anything other than a joke," Meeth said.

Meeth told the commission he is sure that payment from the margin Canberra Solutions made -- which was highlighted on Thursday as being almost half of what was paid by the university -- did not come back to him.

The hearing continues.

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