Bendigo Kangan TAFE kept fraudulent funds: IBAC

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A corruption inquiry has heard Bendigo Kangan TAFE “claimed or received” about $145,000 in funding for allegedly fraudulently-enrolled students in 2014-15, which it has still not repaid to the state government.

The figure was revealed in documents the TAFE provided to the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission inquiry on July 3, almost a week after the hearings began last month.

Council assisting the inquiry, Ian Hill QC, said the TAFE retained half the funding claimed for students allegedly enrolled in an engineering course without their knowledge, including two who “blew the whistle”, under an agreement with training provider TayTell, the company at the centre of the Operation Lansdowne proceedings.

TayTell director, Rebecca Taylor, is accused of siphoning off millions of dollars in an alleged scam to deliver sham qualifications via Kangan and South West TAFE in Warrnambool.

“The Kangan Institute has retained that money including moneys for training that was never given and to students who were ineligible either because they had other qualifications or because they lived interstate,” Mr Hill said.

Kangan chief operating officer Bruce Whittaker accepted the TAFE had kept the money, but said it would be “repaid immediately” pending the conclusion of the inquiry and Kangan’s own internal investigation.

“I’ve agreed with the department that we will wait until the conclusion of this hearing – wait till the conclusion of the [internal] review, and if it’s ascertained that there has been moneys paid that should not have been paid and once we’re clear about the actual quantum, they will be repaid immediately,” he said.

Mr Hill said it would have been a “simple task” for Kangan staff to have checked whether the training was actually being provided if “the authorised enrolment officer did their job” and Mr Whittaker agreed that “would solve a number of problems”.

“Because by failing to have checks and balances, it means that someone who wants to rort the system can do so?” Mr Hill asked, which Mr Whittaker accepted was a “potential outcome”.

When asked directly if “that’s what happened”, Mr Whittaker said it “would appear so from what I’ve seen through the hearing”.

Kangan’s authorised enrolment officer a the time, Andree Weavers, and two other senior staff, business development manager Coralee Hayden-Long and partnership delivery manager Travis Hodgson, were suspended with full pay after testifying at the inquiry earlier this month.

The inquiry continues this week, when IBAC’s focus shifts from the training providers to regional rail operator V/Line.