TAFE suspends staff amid corruption inquiry

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Bendigo Kangan TAFE has suspended three senior staff members in the wake of an inquiry into an alleged scheme to corruptly siphon off public funds via the institution.

Contracts and compliance co-ordinator Andree Weavers, business development manager Coralee Hayden-Long and partnership delivery manager Travis Hodgson were suspended with full pay on Friday.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission inquiry has heard Mr Hodgson made “false and misleading” statements in an email to Ms Hayden-Long and Ms Weavers on April 16, 2015, which they “must have known” were false at the time.

The email was sent two months after a meeting with staff of utility infrastructure service provider, Zinfra, in which it was allegedly made clear workers at the company were fraudulently enrolled in an engineering course.

Zinfra’s human resources manager, Melanie Stacey, testified she felt what Mr Hodgson told her in the meeting was “a whole heap of bulls--t”, but Mr Hodgson denied he was told the enrolments were fraudulent.

In an email sent to Kangan staff on Monday and seen by the Bendigo Advertiser the TAFE said the evidence presented to IBAC suggested current staff members “may have breached policies and procedures that led to serious misconduct or potential fraud against the institute”.

“The evidence presented is of such a serious nature that the institute has decided, under legal advice, to suspend the employment of Andree Weavers, Coralee Hayden-Long and Travis Hodgson,” it reads.

In a public statement, the TAFE said it had suspended the managers in the belief that evidence presented at the Operation Lansdowne hearings suggested “serious breaches of the institute’s policies and procedures”.

“Following evidence presented during the current investigations by IBAC and subsequent legal advice, Bendigo Kangan Institute feels it was necessary to suspend three staff members, pending the outcome of the IBAC hearings,” the statement reads.

“Separately, lawyers representing Kangan have now also appointed a leading accounting firm to initiate an independent review of the situation.”

The statement said Kangan would continue to provide the necessary support to the suspended staff members, while also co-operating fully with the IBAC investigations.