TAFE South West Sydney Institute – corruption allegations concerning ICT manager (Operation Sonet)

Year: 2016 Status: Completed

The NSW ICAC investigated corruption allegations that an Acting Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Manager, Ronald Cordoba, dishonestly obtained over $1.7 million from the Department of Education and Communities TAFE South Western Sydney Institute.

In its report on the investigation, made public on 4 March 2016, the Commission makes findings of serious corrupt conduct against Mr Cordoba.

The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to the prosecution of Mr Cordoba for various offences.

The ICAC also makes three corruption prevention recommendations to TAFE NSW to help prevent the recurrence of the conduct exposed in this investigation in the future.

Findings of corrupt conduct

The ICAC found that Ronald Cordoba engaged in serious corrupt conduct by improperly exercising his official functions to obtain $1,709,904.90 from the SWSI for his business, ITD Systems.

Mr Cordoba also engaged in serious corrupt conduct by, in about February 2014, improperly exercising his official functions to ensure that the TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute (SWSI) engaged Cloud People Pty Ltd as its contractor to provide “virtual labs” with the intention of obtaining for his business, ITD Systems Pty Ltd, a benefit of $55,000; a benefit that was received.

Recommendations for prosecutions

The Commission must seek the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on whether any prosecution should be commenced. The DPP determines whether any criminal charges can be laid, and conducts all prosecutions. The Commission provides information on this website in relation to the status of prosecution recommendations and outcomes as advised by the DPP. The progress of matters is generally within the hands of the DPP. Accordingly, the Commission does not directly notify persons affected of advice received from the DPP or the progress of their matters generally.

The ICAC is of the opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should be obtained with respect to the prosecution of Ronald Cordoba for the criminal offences of:

  • fraud, pursuant to section 192E of the Crimes Act 1900, in relation to $55,000 paid by Cloud People to Mr Cordoba’s business, ITD Systems, in or after February 2014

  • fraud, pursuant to section 192E of the Crimes Act, in relation to the $1,709,904.90 paid by the SWSI to ITD Systems between February and July 2014

  • wilfully making a false statement to mislead a Commission officer, pursuant to section 80 of the Independent  Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 in relation to information provided by him to a Commission officer during a search of his (Mr Cordoba’s) home on 10 March 2015

  • making a false or misleading statement during a compulsory examination, pursuant to section 87 of the ICAC Act, in relation to evidence given by him during two compulsory examinations by the Commission to the effect that he had used an incorrect Australian Business Number (ABN) on SWSI documentation by accident.

Updates

A brief of evidence was provided to the DPP on 11 March 2016. On 8 December 2016, the DPP advised that there is sufficient evidence to charge Ronald Cordoba with:

  • 51 counts of fraud pursuant to section 192E of the Crimes Act

  • 1 count of wilfully lying to a Commission officer pursuant to section 80(c) of the ICAC Act

  • 1 count of giving false evidence at a compulsory examination pursuant to section 87 of the ICAC Act.

The matter was mentioned at the Downing Centre Local Court on 11 July 2017. Mr Cordoba entered pleas of guilty to one count of dishonestly causing a financial disadvantage by deception, one count of dishonestly obtaining a benefit by deception (encompassing all 51 offences charged), and one count of giving false evidence at a compulsory examination. A further charge of wilfully lying to a Commission officer will also be taken into account on sentencing. Mr Cordoba was committed for sentence to the Sydney District Court, where the matter was listed for mention on 28 July 2017. On that day, Mr Cordoba adhered to his guilty plea and the matter was listed for sentence at the Sydney District Court on 20 April 2018. The matter was adjourned to 6 June 2018 to determine application for plea reversal on 1 x section 192E offence.

Mr Cordoba failed to appear on 6 June. The application for plea reversal was dismissed on that date and a warrant issued for Mr Cordoba's arrest.

In March 2019, Mr Cordoba was extradited from South Australia and placed in custody. He is due for sentence on 5 July 2019.

Recommendations for disciplinary action

Ronald Cordoba has resigned from his position at the TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute, so it is not necessary to consider any recommendation in relation to disciplinary or dismissal action.

Recommendations for corruption prevention

The Commission has made three corruption prevention recommendations as follows:

Recommendation 1

That the South Western Sydney Institute (SWSI) finance unit scrutinises expenditure involving out-of-contract suppliers on a periodic basis.

Recommendation 2

That the SWSI undertakes a regular analysis of vendor payments based on computer-aided audit reports to detect anomalies in the procure-to-pay system.

Recommendation 3

That the SWSI establishes formal project management and governance structures to oversee information and communications technology projects and implement formal value-realisation analysis at the completion of projects.


Response to ICAC recommendations

The action plan posted below has been provided by TAFE South Western Sydney Institute in response to the ICAC's corruption prevention recommendations. It's appearance here is for information only and does not constitute the approval or endorsement of the plan by the Commission.

*Further reports will not be requested from South Western Sydney Institute as it has completed implementation of all recommendations. This action plan serves as a final report.

Action plan - TAFE South Western Sydney Institute (PDF)

Media Releases
Witness Transcripts

View all transcripts associated with this investigation. The Commission makes every effort to post the daily transcripts of its public inquiries on its website by 8:00 pm each day when possible. If the Commission sits later than 4:00 pm, the daily transcripts, particularly the afternoon session, may not be available until the next working day.

 

Exhibits Public notices