​ICAC finds TAFE IT manager corruptly obtained over AU$1.7m

New South Wales' corruption watchdog has found a former IT manager dishonestly obtained AU$1.76 million from the South Western Sydney Institute of TAFE for his own business.

The New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that a former acting IT manager for the South Western Sydney Institute (SWSI) of TAFE improperly obtained funds for his own business.

In its report released on Friday, ICAC found that Ronald Cordoba procured over AU$1.7 million in payments to ITD Systems Pty Ltd, a company which he owned and operated.

Further to this, the ICAC investigation found that Cordoba improperly exercised his official functions by ensuring that the SWSI engaged Cloud People Pty Ltd as its contractor to provide "virtual labs", with the intention of ITD Systems reaping a AU$55,000 benefit from the contract.

As a result, ICAC recommended Cordoba face criminal charges for his actions, including two counts of fraud for the AU$1.7 million and AU$55,000 unlawfully obtained; wilfully making false statements to an ICAC officer; and making false or misleading statements under oath during the ICAC investigation.

The watchdog said Cordoba deliberately concealed his ownership of ITD Systems by using the company name and the Australian Business Number of ITD Pty Ltd, a company he had no connection to, but was registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Additionally, ICAC said he corresponded with SWSI administrators on behalf of ITD Systems using a false name and position title. The corruption commission also found that Cordoba was well aware that his actions were illegal.

Cordoba commenced employment with the SWSI as a part-time casual teacher in 2002 until 2004. Between 2004 and December 2012, Cordoba held a number of positions within the SWSI, including senior education officer, manager e-learning, and ICT faculty director. He was then appointed as the acting manager ICT services, a position he held until August 5, 2014, when he was suspended from duty on full pay after allegations of his corruption had surfaced.

ICAC began hearing the matter under Operation Sonet in August last year, and Cordoba resigned from the SWSI on September 7, 2015.

Off the back of the findings ICAC Commissioner Megan Latham reported last Friday, ICAC offered three recommendations to the SWSI: That its finance unit scrutinises expenditure involving out-of-contract suppliers on a periodic basis; that it undertakes regular analysis of vendor payments; and that it establishes formal project management and governance structures to oversee future IT projects.

In November, ICAC investigated the actions undertaken by the former head of projects in the IT department at Sydney University.

It was alleged by the commission that Jason Meeth proactively advocated the use of a non-government approved IT supplier and profited AU$29,000 dishonestly from contracts he awarded.

ICAC alleged that Meeth hired nine contractors from Sydney-based Canberra Solutions despite the correct vetting and hiring procedures not being completed. According to ICAC, in the 18 months that Meeth was the head of projects for the IT department at Sydney University, Canberra Solutions was paid over AU$1.5 million by the university.

In February last year, ICAC also investigated Brett Roberts, the former IT manager at the University of Sydney, the University of Newcastle, and Macquarie University for the alleged creation of fake invoices that amounted to a total of AU$113,715.

Victoria's Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) heard last month that a former Victorian education official purchased almost AU$110,000 worth of shares in CSG, the company awarded a controversial IT contract the day after a department board meeting discussed the tender.

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 AU$180 million.

During the first day of the hearing, IBAC found that AU$1.4 million was spent on an opulent day-long presentation to introduce Ultranet to the state's school principals and deputy principals.

The IBAC Ultranet hearing continues, with day 13 under way on Monday.