An IT manager in New South Wales has been accused of defrauding three leading New South Wales universities out of more than $100,000 by producing fake invoices.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) heard Brett Andrew Roberts allegedly gave false invoices to the University of Newcastle, the University of Sydney and Macquarie University for work on IT projects that never took place.
Commissioner Megan Latham heard Roberts worked at the University of Newcastle, the University of Sydney and Macquarie University at different times between 2005 and 2013.
Roberts allegedly presented the universities with the false invoices on the letterhead of a company named Management and Professional Services Pty Limited, a business owned and controlled by Roberts’ former work colleague and friend at that time, Christopher Killalea.
Roberts allegedly obtained $113,715 from the false invoices, including $27,750 from Newcastle University, $43,065 from Sydney University and $42,900 from Macquarie University. He had attempted to obtain a further $97,350 from Macquarie before the scam unravelled.
Killalea yesterday gave evidence against his former friend, telling the inquiry Management and Professional Services had never done any work for the universities.
“My error in judgement throughout this whole sordid affair, sir, has been my trust in Mr Roberts,” Killalea told Anthony McGrath SC, the counsel assisting the inquiry.
The matter is still before the courts.
Grant Field, chairman of accounting firm MGI, told SmartCompany small business owners need to consider two different types of fraudulent invoices: internal and external.
In regards to internal invoices, Field says the most important safeguard against fraud is having a number of checks and balances on the invoice payment process.
“The key is the appropriate segregation of duties,” Field says.
“So, you have someone approving the supplier to be added to your supplier list, another person approving the payment and a further person making the payment.”
Field also suggests business owners check back account details against previous invoices, if they have used a supplier in the past, and check a supplier’s ABN numbers on websites such as ABN Lookup.
He says the most difficult internal fraud to pick up is where collusion has occurred between an employee and a supplier.
In terms of external invoices, Field says business owners must be aware of “documents that are framed as invoices, but in the fine print are actually invites to subscribe” to a service.
These could include such things as directory listings, domain renewal notices, magazine subscriptions or office supplies.
SmartCompany contacted the universities concerned, with Newcastle University and the University of Sydney releasing statements saying it was not appropriate to comment on a matter currently before ICAC.
Macquarie University has previously released a statement saying it takes its financial and fiduciary responsibilities very seriously, and has rigorous policies and procedures in place to eliminate the risk of fraudulent behaviour by its employees and contractors.
“The inappropriate financial behaviour by Mr Roberts was picked up by the University’s own financial safeguards and systems,” said the statement.
The one payment of $29,500 made to Management and Professional Services has since been returned to Macquarie University by the company.