Former IT manager tells ICAC he is ‘ashamed’ of defrauding NSW universities

Fraud allegations: Brett Roberts leaves the ICAC after giving evidence. Photo: Daniel Munoz
Nanjing Night Net

Fraud allegations: Brett Roberts leaves the ICAC after giving evidence. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Fraud allegations: Brett Roberts leaves the ICAC after giving evidence. Photo: Daniel Munoz

“This was a rob and a con of Sydney University, wasn’t it?” counsel assisting a corruption inquiry asked.

“Yes,” came the blunt reply from the 47-year-old former IT manager in the witness box.

Brett Roberts told the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Wednesday he had a “lot of debt” when he decided to defraud his employer of tens of thousands of dollars in late 2009.

The commission heard that Mr Roberts issued fake invoices to the University of Sydney, which directed that payment be made to a bank account for his $2 company, Robcon Australia Pty Limited.

“You understand what a con is? You understand what a rob is?” said counsel assisting the inquiry Anthony McGrath, SC.

“Yes,” Mr Roberts replied.

Asked if the company name was chosen “because that’s what you had in mind for that company”, Mr Roberts said: “Absolutely not.”

The Newcastle man admitted he had been “shitting blue lights” at the prospect of being caught but it was not the first time he had used the scam.

He had previously defrauded the University of Newcastle using a similar scheme, and after his stint at the University of Sydney he went on to do the same at Macquarie University. The universities were defrauded of almost $114,000 between 2005 and 2013.

In front of barristers for the universities, Mr Roberts apologised and said he was “ashamed” of himself.

“I know it probably doesn’t mean much, coming from me here, but I want to do what I can to fix this up,” he said.

The inquiry heard that Mr Roberts had hatched a plan in 2006 to use a friend’s company to issue fake invoices to the University of Newcastle.

He claimed he had come up with the idea to help his friend who was “out of work”, and they agreed to split the proceeds. His friend denied the claim.

Mr Roberts admitted he used the same system when he moved on to the University of Sydney but said his friend was not involved. The invoices directed the money be paid to the Robcon bank account.

He made $43,065 from the University of Sydney, on top of the “good money” he admitted the university was already paying him.

Mr Roberts denied he had a gambling problem and claimed he was spending the money on living expenses, including water and electricity bills.

“You seem to be going through an extraordinary amount of water and electricity,” Mr McGrath said.

Mr Roberts said his electricity bill could be as much as $4000 a quarter.

The inquiry has heard allegations that Mr Roberts used the same scam at Macquarie University, where he started working in July 2012 and was earning $180,000 a year.

Commissioner Megan Latham asked incredulously if all the money he received was spent on household expenses.

“As I recall, yes,” Mr Roberts replied.

Mr Roberts was sacked in December 2013 following a misconduct investigation, and went on to work briefly for the NSW Department of Trade and Investment.

He is now working part-time at the former NSW government-owned electricity company Macquarie Generation, which was privatised last year.

The ICAC will release its findings later in the year.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.