Under-fire Ultranet boss forced to front corruption inquiry

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Under-fire Ultranet boss forced to front corruption inquiry

Fraser loses bid to be exempted from public grilling.

The man at the centre of the Victorian corruption watchdog’s Ultranet probe, Darrell Fraser, has been ordered by the IBAC commissioner to appear before a public grilling next week.

Lawyers for the former Department of Education deputy secretary have argued his evidence should be heard in private or not at all.

However commissioner Stephen O'Bryan QC rejected the lawyers' argument that it was "inevitable" Fraser would be charged with one or more criminal offences off the back of the inquiry and that a public hearing would thus prejudice his right to a fair trial.

He also knocked back suggestions that a public hearing would cause the former education official "unreasonable reputational damage".

Ultimately O'Bryan ruled that the public interest in scrutiny of public spending and in maintaining confidence in the work of anti-corruption authorities, outweighed Fraser's concerns.

"The matters being investigated and exposed to public scrutiny are otherwise considered to be very much matters of public interest including around the allocation and honest handling of scarce public funding available to the public education sector," he said.

The IBAC Act gives the watchdog the power to compel witnesses to give evidence before hearings.

The former official has been accused of doing everything in his power to make sure his favoured Oracle solution won a $71 million contract for the rollout of Ultranet, a statewide schools intranet.

IBAC has heard evidence that he exchanged messages and documents with Oracle and other members of its bid consortium during the tender evaluation period, and stacked the tender evaluation board with his friends and associates.

It also heard Fraser accepted lavish trips and accommodation from Oracle and, after the deal was signed, covertly channelled $1 million to systems integrator CSG to top up its cash flow.

The hearings have additionally raised questions about Fraser’s meteoric promotion from principal of Glen Waverley Secondary College to second in charge of the state’s Education Department in 2004.

Fraser is one of several former department employees involved with the Ultranet project - who subsequently ended up at a prestigious Saudi Arabian English language school - to be called back to Melbourne to face the hearings. He is the last of the group to take the stand.

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