Monday, 9 January 2017

Nino's day in court

Disgraced former Education Department big wig Nino Napoli is among four people charged over their alleged involvement in a corrupt ring that swindled more than $6 million from Victorian state schools.

Mr Napoli, who was named by the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission as the "principal player" in the alleged scam, will appear before the Magistrates Court later this month alongside his cousin Carlo Squillacioti and former Keilor Heights Primary School principal Michael Giulieri.

Mr Napoli, who was the department's finance manager, allegedly funnelled millions of dollars of funds earmarked for needy schools to companies run by his relatives between 2007 and 2014.

The former department executive has been linked to at least $1.9 million in profits which allegedly benefited his relatives and associates, and a further $4.4 million in suspicious transactions and contracts.

A long-awaited report released by the anti-corruption watchdog last year found that Mr Napoli obtained the funds through so-called "banker schools" by "carefully selecting and grooming principals and business managers".

These principals allegedly signed off on false invoices and received a small cut of the transaction.

"The conduct uncovered during IBAC's investigation was underpinned by a malevolent culture of non-compliance and entitlement," the report said.

"Evidence suggests this practice to be pervasive and of long standing."

The Operation Ord corruption hearing was told that Mr Napoli wanted to use taxpayer funds for his expensive toupee.

Mr Giulieri conceded during the 2015 hearing that he acted corruptly when he wrote a fake letter requesting $30,000 to pay for work that was never completed.

He allegedly wrote a bogus application requesting Education Department funds to pay Mr Napoli's son for work he never did.

The saga has been a major embarrassment for the Education Department, which has abolished the banker school system which was allegedly abused by the officials.

It has previously said that every executive embroiled in the scandal no longer works at the department.

News of the charges was welcomed by stakeholders, including the Australian Principals Federation.

"Every education dollar is so hard won. You hate to see a dollar wasted in any way," APF president Julie Podbury said.

"We would be pleased to see the matter properly dealt with and finalised."

Many of the officials implicated in Operation Ord were also involved in the disastrous $180 million Ultranet IT project, which is at the centre of a separate IBAC investigation called Operation Dunham. 

From the Age

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