Uni IT manager admits to falsifying invoices at ICAC

On the third day into a NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption ​public inquiry, former IT manager Brett Roberts has admitted to benefiting from falsifying invoices to the University of Newcastle, the University of Sydney, and Macquarie University.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Former IT manager Brett Roberts has admitted to issuing over a dozen false invoices to the University of Newcastle, the University of Sydney, and Macquarie University that amounted to a total of AU$113,715.

Roberts took the stand this week to give evidence as part of the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption's (ICAC) public inquiry into his corrupt conduct of benefiting from issuing false invoices to each university, while he held IT management positions at each of them between 2005 and 2013.

Roberts admitted that he 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.

From the total, 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 also an attempt to obtain a further AU$97,350 from Macquarie University on another set of fake invoices, but it was unsuccessful.

Roberts said that during his employment with each of the universities, despite being paid a full-time salary at each position, he was "broke" and facing difficulties paying general utility bills -- which he claimed were sometimes in excess of AU$3,000 per quarter -- school fees, and general living expenses. He said that this was the catalyst for why he defrauded all three universities.

Roberts added that on three of the four occasions involving the University of Newcastle and Macquarie University, he did not act alone. He said that on the first occasion with the University of Newcastle, he concocted a scheme that would see him and Killalea split the funds 50/50 once the payments from the university were paid to the bank account of MAPS for work it had supposedly done.

Aside from using the money to pay his debts, Roberts said that he involved Killalea because he had thought he was out of work at that point in time, despite Killalea being employed to work on a separate project in Melbourne.

On Tuesday, when Killalea gave evidence as part the inquiry, he blamed "stupid loyalty" and his "blind friendship" that saw him caught up in the corrupt conduct.

Killalea added that Robert's claim that he agreed to carry out the fraudulent scheme against the University of Newcastle, which resulted in the rendering of three false invoices, was not true. He also disputed that his communications with Macquarie University was related a fraudulent scheme.

Although Roberts said he could not recall how he received the payment after the University of Newcastle had paid MAPs, ICAC commissioner Megan Latham pointed out that there could have only been one of two methods: Cash in hand or payment through an electronic funds transfer.

Roberts also admitted that after the first incident with the University of Newcastle, he was afraid of getting caught.

"I was s******* blue lights that I would get picked up for [the fraud]," he said.

Defrauding the University of Sydney, on the other hand, was a solo act, Roberts said. All payments by the university were made out to RobCon, a company that Roberts owned and operated.

"This was a rob and a con of the University of Sydney, wasn't it?" asked Anthony McGrath, counsel assisting the commission.

"Yes," replied Roberts.

During the hearing, McGrath also requested for the commissioner to lift the suppression order made on statements that Roberts gave during the inquiry's compulsory examination in January.

McGrath was able to highlight that Roberts had lied that MAPS was ever involved in any work with the universities. Roberts had initially told ICAC during the compulsory examination that the invoices by MAPS were created and paid by the universities because it had engaged in work with each of the universities.

The inquiry also identified that prior to Roberts' employment with any of the universities, his curriculum vitae, which he used to apply for jobs in the last 10 years, was littered with falsified qualifications. Roberts had claimed that he held an associate diploma in computing studies from the Newcastle College of Advanced Education and a bachelor of science in computing from the University of Newcastle -- none of which existed.

At one point during the inquiry, Roberts also told the commission: "I'm really, really sorry for doing it." He said he is "ashamed" of what he has done, and added, "I'd like to apologise to each of the universities, and it probably doesn't mean much, but I'd like to do what I can to fix this problem."

The ICAC will release its findings later this year.

Updated at 3.24pm AESDT: Added extra comments from Brett Roberts in regards to his apology to the universities.

Updated at 4.52pm AESDT: Added additional comments from Christopher Killalea about his involvement.

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