Friday, 8 May 2015

IBAC update and a matter of trust

An excellent recap of IBAC shenanigans from the Age Facebook page

Revelations that school bank accounts were plundered have shaken parents' trust in state schools across Victoria.

Parents are re-examining past grievances with schools for suspicious activity, and the Education Department has also noticed old complaints resurfacing.

Bendigo Senior Secondary College – a banker school that has not been implicated in the anti-corruption hearings into serious misconduct in the education department – is preparing a letter to reassure parents.

Principal Dale Pearce said parents were talking and he wanted to make sure they knew nothing untowards had taken place.

"We didn't have any direct contact with [sacked department finance manager] Nino Napoli in our role as a banker school. The work we did in that role was through an authorisation process with our regional office. The IBAC hearing doesn't reflect on us or involve us."

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy is concerned about the fallout for schools.

She has received a spike in inquiries from parents who are worried their children's school might crop up during the hearings.

"Some parents directing anger and expressing dissatisfaction about the acts of these alleged offenders at their own local school staff who are not involved or associated in anyway."

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Judy Crowe said the scandal had eroded trust at some schools, prompting parents to raise concerns about more minor issues.

"It is a difficult time for everyone in education and we hope that after this there will be a greater level of transparency."

She said some parents did not understand that banker school funds were separate to school budgets. Most Education Department staff had integrity, she said.

Naoko Ficorilli's child attends Chandler Park Primary School, where principal Peter Paul was suspended last week over allegations he authorised $30,000 in wine purchases from his wine merchant son. She said Mr Paul had embarrassed and betrayed the school community.

"He asks us to donate money at every single possible occasion, mother's day raffles, morning teas."

The school's acting principal Naomi Reed offered support to parents in a letter this week, emphasising that "our students did not miss out on opportunities as a result of the alleged arrangement between former department officials and our school."

An Education Department spokesman said the department was determined to rebuild public trust in the education system.

"Any use of taxpayer funds, but particularly funds meant for children and young people, is totally deplorable."

While the department has not noticed an increase in new complaints due to the IBAC hearings, the spokesman said some old grievances which had been addressed, had resurfaced.

The department wrote to principals, school council presidents and business managers this week to remind them how to report irregular activity and where to refer parents.

Brighton Secondary College's school council president, David Marshall, said the school community had been rattled by the "boys' club" at the Education Department, and the council was now pushing to overhaul its own accounting system.

"I think it does erode trust, I'm very disappointed with the way it's all come out. We struggle so much to get funding for the schools and to see money disappear like that ... it's annoying for everybody."

The Key players far
Peter Paul 
Suspended Chandler Park Primary School principal 
Admitted that Department funds stored in the school's account were spent on overseas trips for staff and up to $30,000 of wine for Nino Napoli. The wine was bought from Mr Paul's wine merchant son. Mr Paul denied any wrongdoing.

Michael Giulieri
Former Essendon North Primary principal
Now on leave from his job as principal of Keilor Heights Primary School. 
Admitted writing a fake letter and backdating it 10 years to help Mr Napoli. The bogus letter requested $30,000 of Department funds to pay Mr Napoli's son for work he never did.

Anthony Hilton
Moonee Ponds West Primary School principal
Authorised more than $90,000 in invoices to companies affiliated with Mr Napoli. He told the inquiry he approved the payments because Mr Napoli asked him to.

Robert Carroll
Maribyrnong College assistant principal 
Said he was unaware Mr Napoli's two sons were paid for "volunteer" work at the College they never did. He said he refused to co-operate with  Mr Napoli's request that he claim their wages were legitimate.

Mary Hannett
Chandler Park Primary School business manager
Went on seven overseas trips funded by the school and received $10,500 in bonuses over four months. She signed off on invoices to other companies affiliated with 
Mr Napoli, totalling more than $150,000. She said she went overseas at the instruction of Mr Paul.

Gordon Pratt
Former Brighton Primary School principal
Paid $5099 from school funds to the department's former acting secretary, Jeff Rosewarne for two coffee machines and authorised a $4824 invoice payment in 2008 at Mr Rosewarne's request. 

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