A former deputy secretary at the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has faced court almost a decade after feeding $1 million of public money to IT company CSG Services.
Darrell Fraser on Monday pleaded guilty to misconduct as a public official and obtaining financial advantage by deception.
Fraser had reportedly transferred $996,996 to CSG so it could deliver the failed Ultranet project. The funds were fed through contractor Alliance Recruitment, which then paid CSG after taking a cut, Fraser told investigators.
The former bureaucrat would be placed on a community correction order and not jailed, County Court judge Martine Marich said.
Tom Gyorffy QC acknowledged that the motive behind Fraser’s actions “was to try and save the Ultranet program”, he didn’t personally profit from the crime, and he had cooperated with investigators.
Fraser will be sentenced on July 24.
Ultranet was planned to be an online teaching and learning platform for teachers, students, and parents, and was expected to cost $64.6 million.
After crashing on its 2010 launch day — and costing between $127 million to $240 million in public money — a damning audit finally saw the project cancelled in 2014.
Fraser resigned as deputy secretary and took up a senior role with CSG in 2011. Seven years later, he was charged by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission with five counts of obtaining property by deception and one count of misconduct in public office.
CSG’s former managing director Denis MacKenzie, and former CEO Julie-Ann Kerin, were also charged with obtaining property by deception.
IBAC’s 2017 report revealed evidence of process corruption, improper diversion of funds, conflict of interest, and mismanagement within the education department. Various individuals had engaged in dodgy behaviours including accepting gifts such as hospitality and travel; attempted to influence the tender process; and had bought shares in CSG.
Fraser had also tried to influence the tender outcome by “stacking” an evaluation panel.
The investigation spurred the Department of Education and Training to make a range of integrity reforms including stronger, more centralised controls over procurement, conflicts of interest and IT.
Then-secretary Gill Callister said the department would “uphold the highest ethical standards and ensure that as stewards of public education, our conduct consistently meets the public’s expectations of integrity”.