Monday, 29 June 2015

IBAC- round one

The Education Department is cracking down on corruption in its ranks, and has vowed to overhaul its structure, culture and financial system in response to a damning corruption inquiry.

It comes as the state's corruption-fighting body announced that its investigation into serious corruption in the Education Department was far from over, with fresh information helping investigators "form a more complete picture".

It is expected that the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission will now turn its attention to the failed Ultranet IT project for schools, which was dumped in 2013 after costs blew out to $180 million.(Hopefully they will also take a close link at the regions, overseas travel and links to the 'education industry')

"This investigation is not over. So anyone with information or concerns can still contact us," IBAC Acting CEO John Lynch said.  

Department Secretary Gill Callister announced on Tuesday that the banker school model - which was used by corrupt officials to rort millions of dollars of education funds- would be abolished.

Ms Callister, who was giving evidence on the final day of IBAC's public hearings on Tuesday, said she would also tighten up rules for school grants to "ensure all public education funds are fully accounted for".

As part of the crackdown, executives will be rotated through the department to "break down unhealthy networks".

They will lose their jobs if they do not demonstrate integrity in their work.

Principals have already been hit with overseas travel bans, and will only be granted permission to travel interstate and overseas in "exceptional circumstances".( I'd like some more information about why this is necessary.)

Under new temporary travel restrictions, staff will only be allowed to travel overseas if they are accompanying students, representing ministers or the secretary, it has a "direct economic benefit to Victoria", or if the state's reputation is at risk.

As the fallout from the inquiry continues to reverberate through schools, Ms Callister promised tougher gift and hospitality rules.

"These actions send a very clear message - I will not tolerate corruption, misconduct or dishonest behaviour in this department," Ms Callister said.

The investigation has centred on the department's former finance manager, Nino Napoli, the alleged architect of a rort that diverted more than $2.5 million away from schools. The rort involved moving huge sums of money to so-called banker schools, where it could be misused without scrutiny.

The scam benefited Mr Napoli's relatives and former acting secretary Jeff Rosewarne. Some principals reaped the benefits of interest accrued on the banker school accounts.

The inquiry has claimed 11 scalps, with the department sacking three officials, including Mr Napoli, and suspending eight staff.

To prevent a similar rort recurring, the department said it would create a new integrity division that will investigate misconduct.

Training will also be increased for school business managers and school councils, while data analytics will be used more regularly to probe school finances. Procurement rules will be strengthened to cut red tape, provide better value to schools and improve spending oversight, Ms Callister said. 

Ms Callister has a huge task and has vowed to create a culture in the department where "integrity and accountability are the norm".

"I am determined to make sure public education funding is 100 per cent focused on improving outcomes for children." 

She said wide-ranging audits and reviews by the department - separate from IBAC's investigation - had uncovered "behaviours, cultures and practices that are clearly out of step with community expectations".

Education Minister James Merlino has asked the Public Sector Commissioner to oversee and scrutinise the department's actions.  

And what's more......


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