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ICAC finds security providers defrauded USyd of $500k, staff member accepted $10k pinball machine gift

In its report, ICAC also identified several deficiencies in the University's oversight of its security providers

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is “satisfied” that the University of Sydney’s former security providers, contractor Sydney Night Patrol and Inquiry (SNP) and subcontractor S International Group (SIG) committed “serious corrupt misconduct.” 

Employees of the companies fraudulently obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars by submitting false timesheets, dishonestly obtaining a total of almost $500,000. 

In a report detailing the investigation’s findings, released today, ICAC also stated that it is “satisfied” that a University staff member accepted tens of thousands of dollars in gifts for favourable treatment of SIG. The gifts included two stays at the Shangri-La Hotel, a restaurant meal, an overseas trip and a pinball machine worth $10,650. 

ICAC found that, between December 2015 and January 2018, Emir Balicevac, Daryl McCreadie and Frank Lu dishonestly obtained approximately $222,905, $27,283 and $244,091 respectively from the SNP by submitting timesheets which falsely listed the identities of the security guards. The employees knew that the money used to pay such claims would come from the University.

ICAC also found that George Boutros engaged in the same practice between October 2016 and April 2018.

Additionally, the Commission found that Balicevac was implicated in serious corrupt conduct when in late 2016 he provided a pinball machine to Dennis Smith, the security operations manager at the University of Sydney. Costed at $10,650, the gift was intended to induce or reward Smith to favour him personally as well as SIG in its provision of security services at the University.

Taher Sirour was also implicated in serious corrupt conduct via facilitating payments to Balicevac, McCreadie, Lu and Boutros, premised on receiving a financial advantage from SNP at the expense of the University. Sirour was found to be giving or offering inducements or rewards to Smith, with his position at the University, so as to favour himself and SIG.

In agreeing to accept the above gifts, the Commission found that Smith also engaged in serious corrupt misconduct in using his position at the University to favour SIG.

A University spokesperson confirmed that Smith is no longer employed by the University.

ICAC has also recommended seeking the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as to whether Balicevac, McCreadie, Lu, Boutros, Sirour and Smith should face criminal charges. 

If the DPP chose to take up the recommendation, Balicevac, McCreadie, Lu, Boutros and Sirour could face a term of imprisonment of up to ten years for fraud. Smith would face imprisonment of up to seven years for accepting corrupt commissions or rewards. ICAC is unable to prosecute criminal charges itself.

ICAC also found several errors made by the University in managing SNP and the tender process undertaken to engage them. It found the SNP was left largely to manage itself, and the University failed to engage in basic oversight of security staff. ICAC found that the University did not require SNP to handover timesheets with its invoices which may have flagged the issue earlier. ICAC also found that the University did not oversee the Key Performance Indicators of the contract entered into with SNP, did not establish ethical expectations for suppliers, and did not have an adequate anti-fraud plan in place at the time.

ICAC also found that the University failed to follow a recommendation made in the 2016 Safer Community for All Report to hold a review into campus security services. Such a report may have raised the problem earlier.

A University spokesperson told Honi that “The safety of our community is paramount. While we have not seen any evidence or received any complaints to indicate our students or staff were at increased risk due to the fraud that took place, we have already taken steps to prevent a similar situation happening again.”

ICAC has made 20 recommendations to reforming the University’s oversight of sub-contractors and its tender process, and has required the University to provide a progress report in a year of enacting an anti-fraud plan. A spokesperson for the University stated that some recommendations had already been adopted.

Since the hearings took place last year, the University has contracted a new security provider, Australian Concert And Entertainment Security.