State Trustees boss fired, case referred to IBAC

By David Donaldson

Monday July 30, 2018

The sacking of State Trustees CEO Craig Dent shows what it takes for a senior bureaucrat to be fired. The matter is being referred to the anti-corruption commission.

Craig Dent, the head of Victoria’s State Trustees, was fired last week after a five month-long investigation substantiated allegations he had misused public funds.

However, the former CEO denies any wrongdoing and will contest his dismissal.

Dent was suspended with pay in February from his position as CEO of the state-owned corporation.

The board engaged independent forensic accounting firm RSM Australia to investigate seven serious allegations, all of which were substantiated.

The investigation found that Dent, through undeclared and unmanaged conflict of interest and self-interest, was in breach of various State Trustees and Victorian public sector policies and codes of conduct.

“If you’ve stuffed up, you say you stuffed up” — Craig Dent told The Mandarin in 2015

Several of the allegations related to using public funds for the writing, publication and promotion of a book on the history of State Trustees, The Creation of Trust. Although the book was published under Dent’s name, State Trustees says he “improperly claimed credit” for authoring it.

He also made use of two cars “for private benefit” against the relevant rules.

State Trustees Chair Professor Jennifer Acton said the board had on Thursday unanimously voted to terminate Dent’s employment for serious misconduct.

“This was not a decision taken lightly. However, the investigation made conclusive findings which compelled us to take this action,” Acton said.

“We are extremely disappointed that this misuse of public funds has occurred. However, we can assure our clients that no private funds were involved and no client has been or will be impacted.

“We have immediately set to work to restore trust in the organisation. We have briefed an external recruitment agency for the recruitment of a new CEO.

“We will review our purchasing policies to ensure they align with best practice and that our staff are fully empowered and aware of their rights to call out improper conduct at any time.”

State Trustees will now refer the matter to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission for investigation.

Dent’s lawyer Andrew Jewell said in a statement to The Mandarin: “My client denies any wrongdoing and will challenge the actions of the State Trustees board including the dismissal by way of legal proceedings.”

The allegations made against Dent and substantiated by the independent investigators were that he:

  1. Misused State Trustees funds to arrange for the writing and publication of the book, The Creation of Trust;
  2. Improperly claimed credit for authoring The Creation of Trust, and in doing so, failed to declare a conflict of interest and preferred his own personal interests to those of State Trustees;
  3. Improperly claimed copyright to The Creation of Trust;
  4. Improperly authorised the expenditure of State Trustees funds for a function at Parliament House in Melbourne to launch the book;
  5. Misused State Trustees funds in relation to his private use of two Holden Calais cars. In doing so, Dent conferred upon himself a private benefit not provided for by his employment contract, which had the effect of:
    • exposing State Trustees to a breach of the government Sector Executive Remuneration Panel guidelines and policy applicable to State Trustees, by increasing the value of Dent’s remuneration package without authorisation; and
    • exposing State Trustees to fringe benefits tax liability in respect of Dent’s private use of the vehicles;
  6. Directed and/or required his executive assistant to enter into contracts on behalf of State Trustees, or otherwise approve payments by State Trustees when she had no authority to do so, including under the State Trustees delegation policy; and
  7. Deliberately misled and/or withheld relevant information from the board chair.

Dent gave an interview with The Mandarin in 2015, in which he urged leaders to concede when they had made mistakes. “If you’ve stuffed up, you say you stuffed up,” he said at the time.

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