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ICAC finds corrupt conduct against parents for payment of money to gain selective high school entry

Thursday 12 February 2009

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has made corrupt conduct findings against two people who attempted to pay $2,500 cash to a Westmead Public School teacher to help ensure entry into a selective public high school for their son.

The ICAC's Report on an attempt to obtain entry to a selective public high school through payment of money, released today, found that on two occasions between August and October 2008, Ms Xiaodong Lu and Mr Qinghua Pei made two payments totalling $2,500 to their son's teacher, Ms Jodie-Lee Pearce. On both occasions Ms Pearce reported the incidents to her superiors.

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 Ms Lu and Mr Pei for an offence of offering a corrupt benefit contrary to the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

The investigation arose from information provided to the Commission by the NSW Department of Education and Training alleging that on Tuesday 5 August 2008, Ms Lu met with Ms Pearce and provided her with an envelope. When Ms Pearce opened the envelope after Ms Lu had left, she found it contained $2,000 in $50 notes and a letter written by Mr Pei. The letter generally canvassed the son's health and educational circumstances, and said "In the next time leading to the selective school exam, we hope you could help him more in all area (sic), especially reading comprehension. We hope his ability was recognized and he can get a good school marks and also do well in the selective exam."

In making this payment, the Commission found that Ms Lu was improperly seeking to directly influence the school's internal assessment marks to be awarded to her son for the purpose of improving his prospects of admission to a selective public high school.

During the course of the investigation, the Commission received information that Mr Pei also made a payment to Ms Pearce. The Commission found that on Tuesday 28 October 2008, Mr Pei met with Ms Pearce in her classroom. After a brief discussion about his son Mr Pei left, handing Ms Pearce an envelope which contained $500 and a letter that highlighted the son's academic achievements and aspirations and concluded: "In light of the above, I hope you give him a favourable consideration in the school assessment and report". In making this payment, Mr Pei was also improperly seeking to directly influence the school's internal assessment marks to be awarded to his son.

Mr Pei and Ms Lu claimed that they had discussed or overheard other parents at the school, from a Chinese background, suggesting that making payments to the teacher would be a viable approach to improving the treatment of their son, which Mr Pei alleged had been "unfair".

The ICAC Commissioner, the Hon Jerrold Cripps QC, says in his report that: "Overall, the evidence that other parents had paid teachers, or had claimed to have paid them, was unsatisfactory and unreliable."

The Commission held a public inquiry, as part of this investigation, on Tuesday 9 December 2008. Commissioner Cripps presided at the inquiry at which three witnesses gave evidence.

Editor/News Director's note: During the public inquiry, the ICAC Commissioner made a direction pursuant to s.112 of the ICAC Act that the name of Mr Pei and Ms Lu's son shall not be published.

Investigation Report   Fact Sheet