A Victorian Government IT project manager lost his job for not declaring a conflict of interest after a company he owned completed $14 million worth of government IT contracts.
Between 2003 and 2016, the unnamed senior IT project manager of Victoria’s Department of Education and Training allegedly used his position to provide sub-contractors from his own IT consultancy firm without declaring a conflict of interest.
Consultancy firms collect fees for providing contractors.
Victoria’s Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) published a report this week summarising its investigation of the project manager, codenamed ‘Operation Betka’.
“IBAC's investigation identiﬁed that the project manager used his departmental position to further his private business interests in ways that gave rise to a conﬂict of interest with his public duties,” the report said.
“This involved misusing departmental information, inﬂuencing processes for procuring contracted stafﬁng services, and circumventing those processes to obtain an unfair advantage over other IT contractor suppliers.”
The investigation found that the project manager not only failed to declare his conflicts of interest during contract procurement, but that he also actively sought to influence the process by forwarding CVs from his own contractors and even briefing his candidates prior to interviews.
Snippets of a message exchange between the project manager and a departmental account manager show how he pushed to make a sure contractor from his business got a job.
“Have told [redacted] we have 1 and maybe 2 high quality candidates and to wait," the project manager told the account manager. “I’ll be fucked if I'm giving this away. I’ll pressure if necessary.”
Shortly thereafter, the project manager’s chosen contractor started work as an analyst in the IT division.
IBAC did not have enough evidence to press criminal charges against the project manager, but confirmed he was let go by the department in 2016.
His bosses described his as “an exception alproject manager”, known as the “go-to guy” in the IT division.
“People who hold management positions have an obligation to promote integrity and ensure public sector values are upheld,” IBAC said.
“This includes being vigilant in relation to conflicts of interest and taking meaningful action to address them when they arise.”
IBAC was highly critical of the Victorian state government department for allowing the 13 years of corruption to occur.
The anti-corruption commission noted a failure of leadership, poor record keeping, and an inability to follow conflict-of-interest requirements as contributing factors in this case.
It also recognised a “culture of relying on IT consultants”.
At one point, IBAC was told there were 70 active IT projects in the department but the staff budget had been slashed.
“This led to increased expenditure on IT contractors hired on a temporary basis under tight timeframes within a busy and demanding environment,” IBAC said.
“Within this environment, managers did not always take the time to follow the proper process by developing a business case and using the eServices Register to contract for the delivery of specific IT projects.”
IBAC said it was “unlikely” that the weaknesses in the Department of Education and Training’s IT division were unique.