A damning audit has revealed serious "probity lapses" surrounding the tendering of Victoria's $180 million online education network, which has been shunned by schools and is 300 per cent over budget.
Victorian Auditor-General Des Pearson said the Ultranet had not delivered its main objectives or expected benefits and is used by only 4.2 per cent of the 1.5 million teachers and students who were intended to use it.
The cost is expected to blow out to $180 million by June next year, close to 300 per cent above the budget of $60.5 million announced in 2006.
However Mr Pearson said the publicly available information – including that provided on the Education Department's own website – continued to refer to the Ultranet as a $60.5 million project.
"This is misleading and does not accurately reflect the full cost of the Ultranet."
Mr Pearson said it is difficult to understand how the Ultranet went ahead given the Departments of Premier and Cabinet and Treasury and Finance both said it should cease or be delayed.
"This situation demonstrates a clear lack of accountability and integrity in the checks and balances in place to scrutinise project approvals and expenditure."
He said the Education Department had commenced a number of actions and detailed investigations in response to this.
The audit said the Ultranet was presented as a "revolutionary educational tool that would connect the entire school community – parents, students, teachers and administrators – starting in 2007.
According to the business case, 1.5 million teachers, students and parents were expected to use it. However the audit found many of the benefits had not been delivered.
These included allowing parents to log in to their child's classroom, check lesson plans and homework and results, attendance and even communicate directly with teachers via email.
He said the Ultranet had also failed to lighten the burden on teachers or send automatic text messages to parents when their children were absent or late, as was originally intended.
Mr Pearson said the use of the ultranet was well below expectations.
He said only 10 per cent of students and 27 per cent of teachers logged in monthly from February 2011 to September 2012.
"Without near universal take-up by teachers – as forecast in all the business cases – most of the benefits will not be achievable and the significant amount of taxpayers' funds to date will therefore be wasted," he said.
The Education Department has agreed to conduct an agency-wide review of its internal tendering, probity and financial management practices in light of the serious issues identified by the audit.