Training provider pocketed millions through ‘dodgy contracts’

by Brett Henebery30 Jun 2017
A Victorian training provider, Taytell Pty Ltd, pocketed almost $2m of public money through dodgy contracts, a court has heard.

The company, which was contracted to run engineering training programs through some of the state’s TAFEs, came under scrutiny from the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) following a “pattern of suspicious activity”.

According to counsel assisting Ian Hill QC, there was evidence suggesting that Taytell owner, Rebecca Taylor, had limited contact hours with the employees and was not qualified to assess people undergoing the training.

One of the courses was a certificate four in engineering, which had been accredited by the South West Institute of TAFE and the Kangan TAFE in Bendigo, the ABC reported.

In her defence, Taylor told the court that training could happen in a number of different ways.

“Through projects, through work books and me giving them booklets. Their own self-learning,” she said, providing an invoice to the South West Institute of TAFE which showed $1.4m for 132,740 hours of training employees at power company, Zinfra.

However, the court heard Taytell was not a recognised training organisation, and that several members of Taylor’s family, including one of her daughters, husband, son and brother-in-law, were enrolled as students in the course.

When Hill asked Taylor how she retained records of the number of Zinfra students she was training and their contact hours, he was presented with a letter from her daughter’s beauty salon company recommending Taylor as a trainer.

The court was also shown text messages sent between Taylor and her daughter, Heather, regarding how many hours of training they could charge and what they might spend the money on.

Hill said there was evidence that Taytell had exploited a weakness in the vocational sector to get funding from the Department of Education for delivering the training.

He said other invoices showed Taytell billed for 50,000 more training hours, though it was not clear how many students Taylor trained.

Hill told the court there was evidence that the South West Institute of TAFE was to pay Taytell 80% of the government subsidy they got and they would keep the remaining 20%.

That amounted to the TAFE receiving $465,330.66 and Taytell kept $1,824,000.

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