Monday, 25 May 2015

Napoli re-hired on 'merit'

A sacked Education Department official at the centre of a corruption inquiry was previously re-hired "on merit" while he allegedly ripped off state schools.

In 2010 top departmental official Nino Napoli took advantage of the 54/11 superannuation scheme, which lets public sector employees resign, use their retirement funds and then reapply for their old jobs.

Napoli was sacked by the Department last month and stands accused of running a $2.5 million fraud ring, which funnelled money away from state schools between 2007 and 2014.

A large amount of the money went to companies owned by Napoli's relatives.

While it is unclear whether an official complaint had been made about Napoli in 2010, there were concerns about his conduct within the department.

He was rehired "on merit" by a selection panel, and returned to his initial role as director of school resources.

Under department rules, members of selection panels who are aware of complaints have to remove themselves from the hiring process.

The 54-11 scheme is available to a dwindling number of staff who joined the public service before 1988 and is accessed just before their 55th birthday.( There have been principals and Regional staff also re-hired after 'retiring' on 54-11)

A public servant told the inquiry last week that Napoli had "no interest in doing things the right way". Jenny Zahara, who was brought in to curb a deficit of up to $90 million run up in the division overseen by Napoli, said the disgraced education official was not a competent financial manager.

Other senior education department officials who retired to take advantage of the scheme, and were then re-hired include former regional directors John Allman, Wayne Craig and assistant regional director Julie Baker.

Mr Allman was sacked last month after he admitted he destroyed documents because he had something to hide from the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.  

Meanwhile, Mr Craig, who was named in an IBAC hearing by a witness as part of a department "inner circle" that made "quizzical" decisions about the allocation of department funds, is still advising schools on professional practice.

Mr Craig was invited to speak to staff at Eltham High School on the school's curriculum day on Friday about professional practice, pedagogy and student learning.

Eltham High School principal Vincent Sicari said IBAC revelations about Mr Craig, who works for McREL Australia, did not give him "any reason for concern".

"As far as I'm concerned, he is deemed in this country innocent until proven guilty. This curriculum day was planned way before any of that [the hearings] was taking place."

When asked if it was inappropriate for Mr Craig to speak at the school in the wake of the IBAC revelations, his lawyers stated he "not been accused of any wrongdoing".

"Mr Craig did not control the allotment of funds either individually or as part of any informal group," his lawyer said.

The IBAC hearings have focused on a scheme which involved education department officials placing taxpayer funds into so-called "banker schools" and then using the money to pay for allegedly corrupt contracts, wine, meals and lavish Christmas parties.

Money given to banker schools was meant to be spent on programs for schools in their network.
The public hearings continue this week.
From The Age Facebook Education site.

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