The Victorian government’s corruption watchdog has charged four people with a range of offences as part of a corruption investigation involving the state vocational education and training and transport sectors.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission on Friday revealed more than 55 charges have been laid against four people in the VET sector as part of Operation Lansdowne. One of the individuals was a former public sector employee, while the remaining three were associated with an external provider.
The alleged offences include misconduct in public office, conspiracy to defraud, obtaining financial advantage by deception, using and suppling identification information, dealing with proceeds of crime, and computer offences – unauthorised modification of data to cause impairment.
In 2017, Operation Lansdowne found that a lack of oversight by two TAFEs had led to a $2.2 million VET scam. Training company TayTell had received the money to subsidise training for staff at a range of companies through two TAFE institutions, but the training did not take place.
The investigation report also raised concerns over the hiring of employees and contractors by V/Line.
“IBAC has found evidence suggesting a sustained pattern of suspicious conduct involving a group of people employed in, or contracted by, the Victorian TAFE and transport sectors, and involving the flow of millions of dollars of public funds to some of those individuals and to entities associated with them,” Counsel Assisting Ian Hill QC said at the time.
“The evidence found by IBAC so far gives rise to serious concerns that some of these individuals have, over several years, been able to exploit weaknesses in these industry sectors and perhaps to influence the conduct of a number of public officials in order to derive significant financial benefits for themselves and for their friends and family.
“Serious concerns exist as to the company’s legitimate entitlement to those funds and as to the repetitive pattern of TayTell’s third-party contractual arrangements across a number of TAFE institutions and private-sector businesses. These factors combine to make the circumstances exceptional and concerning.”
Last month the anti-corruption agency revealed it had launched an investigation into V/Line chief executive officer James Pinder, and he was suspended.
IBAC said it was “investigating matters related to the Department of Transport”, but did not provided any further details.
The four charged individuals have been summoned to appear at the Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court on October 19.