The two men at the centre of the University of Sydney ICT corruption inquiry being conducted by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) have rejected allegations made by witnesses of dishonest dealings.
The university's former head of projects for ICT, Jason Meeth, claimed large cash deposits into his bank account were gifts from family, while Canberra Solutions’ Balu Moothedath denied he ripped off contractors.
It's alleged that money paid to the university's ICT contractors was dishonestly gained from non-accredited Canberra Solutions.
It is alleged that the university’s former head of projects for ICT, Jason Meeth, had dealings with Canberra Solutions’ Balu Moothedath during February 2012 to July 2013 to recruit ICT contractors, and exercised his decision-making powers at the university to see those contractors be awarded jobs.
It is claimed that the $24,000 in cash that was deposited into Meeth’s bank account during the period could be a financial reward for bringing profits to Canberra Solutions, with the company taking a significant portion of the contractors’ fees charged to the university.
It is claimed that the university employed nine candidates from Canberra Solutions directly under Meeth, and paid the company at least $1.6 million for the contractors’ services. Through subcontracting arrangements, Meeth was able to hire candidates from Canberra Solutions even though the company was not on the NSW government accredited ‘C100’ list, which the university is required to use when recruiting contractors.
Looking at Meeth’s personal bank statements from 18 December 2012 to 21 November 2013, nine cash deposits were made which totalled $24,000. Meeth claimed these deposits were made up of gifts from family and from his own savings, which he used mostly for rebuilding his house.
He kept most of his cash in a tin container “under my bed,” he said. He would keep up to about $20,000 in cash at his home, before depositing it into his bank account to use it for house rebuilding.
Jovan Apostolovic, who was working as a project coordinator within the university’s ICT/project management group during 2012, spoke as a witness early last week about a candidate which Meeth selected he thought was not best for the job after he and Meeth interviewed the candidate.
The candidate, who was recruited through Canberra Solutions, was on a visa that depended on her partner’s student visa, meaning it could be a risk to the company if her partner’s visa didn't work out.
When asked about Apostolovic's concern about the candidate’s visa, Meeth said he did not remember having such a conversation with him, the issue was not raised, and only discussed how many hours per week the candidate could work.
Another witness who spoke early last week, Sean McNulty, said he informed Meeth when he found out that Canberra Solutions were taking a huge portion of a contractor’s wage that the university was paying. McNulty worked on procurement and at times closely with Meeth, and said he found out through the company Canberra Solutions was using to subcontract with - Michael Page.
When asked about this, Meeth said he did not recall this conversation. He was also asked if he sought a new job a week after McNulty informed him of the issue because he feared his involvement in this would soon be unveiled, which Meeth rejected.
Moothedath also rejected allegations towards him, saying he did not deliberately hide the daily pay rate the university was paying to his contractors so they would be oblivious to the huge portion he was taking.
A witness who spoke early last week, Pranav Shanker, a contractor who was recruited under Canberra Solutions, said he was never told his daily pay rate and signed a contract with Paxus (the company used for subcontracting) stating ‘as per schedule A’ instead of a daily pay rate.
Samuel Williams, who worked at recruiting company Paxus during the period, said as a witness that his colleague Trish McNally was instructed by Canberra Solutions to write second versions of new contracts with ‘as per schedule A’ in replacement of a daily pay rate.
Moothedath said he “probably” instructed Paxus to do this, and admitted he didn’t want his contractors to know the real rate the university was paying.
Shanker also revealed that he met Moothedath in his car in North Sydney on 29 June 2015 to discuss the ICAC investigation and asked him to lie about his wife being employed by Canberra Solutions.
Shanker had earlier got into dealings with Moothedath to have his wife fictitiously employed, where he would pay wages and receive it back in cash. The purpose was Moothedath would benefit in his taxation in some way, while Shanker’s wife would benefit in superannuation.
Video evidence was shown to Moothedath which revealed Shanker talking in a car with him on 29 June. This was the same date that Moothedath’s wife, Sonata Madambikat Devadas, who helped run Canberra Solutions, was questioned by authorities about how the business operates.
Moothedath rejected that the conversations he had with Shanker were ICAC-related and said he did not ask him to lie. He said he was discussing business strategy ideas with Shanker in his car that day.
Shanker also said Moothedath asked him this year to sign a backdated contract from the time he was employed by University of Sydney. Moothedath said he “might have” asked Shanker to do this because he couldn’t find a copy of his contract. When asked why was he looking for a copy of Shanker’s contract in the first place, he said because of the ICAC investigation.
Submissions are being made from the parties involved in the inquiry, with a report to come next year.
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