Alleged TAFE IT scammer eluded checks to claim $1.7m

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Alleged TAFE IT scammer eluded checks to claim $1.7m

Still suspended on full pay one year on.

NSW’s corruption watchdog has detailed the relative ease with which alleged invoice fraudster Ronald Cordoba is believed to have circumvented a Sydney TAFE’s procurement procedures to channel $1.7 million back into his own bank account.

Cordoba was acting ICT manager at the Macquarie Fields TAFE campus when he allegedly used his senior role to register his own company as a TAFE supplier, and then approve hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work through the entity to his own benefit.

He has been suspended on full pay by NSW TAFE since August 2014 as investigations into his conduct proceed.

The South Western Sydney Institute of TAFE has been contacted for comment on the length of Cordoba’s paid suspension and any further disciplinary action the organisation may be contemplating.

During a Sydney hearing today, counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption outlined how Cordoba is alleged to have worked around the “three way match” approval system governing procurement at the TAFE institute.

Prior to securing work from the campus, vendors need to be registered in the state Department of Education’s SAP finance system, and have a procurement order approved by another staff member with the appropriate financial delegation.

Before an invoice and payment are made, the commission heard, a TAFE officer must certify that the work has been completed.

The work order, the certification and the invoice must match for the task to be successfully processed.

ICAC claims Cordoba was able to get around these rules by instructing a member of his staff to register his company, ITD Pty Ltd, into the finance system, and to generate work orders which he then used his acting position as IT manager - on a $150,000 salary - to approve.

The full tally of the work orders sent to ITD equates to $1.7 million after GST, ICAC alleges, for a variety of goods and services from Dropbox licences to network consulting and storage hardware.

While some of the work and the products were delivered to the TAFE, ICAC is alleging Cordoba charged a significant premium for the goods and services, which cost him less than $500,000 to deliver. He is accused of pocketing somewhere in the vicinity of $1.1 million profit.

ICAC claims Cordoba created a false persona known as ‘Alicia’ to send the institute ITD invoices and to stand in as a contact person on ITD registrations so the company would not be traced back to him.

South Western Sydney TAFE financial accountant Neil Stralow told ICAC counsel the institute's procurement policy does not address the instruction of subordinate staff to create work orders that are then signed off by the same executive.

He said a routine check of the ITD listing in the SAP system did not set off any alarm bells because it did not directly name Cordoba as an associate of the company.

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