Background Checking

Article: Two More Fraudsters Use Fake Credentials to Win Senior Public Servant Jobs, Both in Shared Services SA

Date: 26 September 2017
Source: The Advertiser

Fraudsters scammed their way into two high-paying State Government jobs in the department responsible for payroll, as the embarrassing scandal over botched hiring widens.

The Advertiser last week revealed that chief information officer Veronica Theriault had been sacked from her position in the Department of Premier and Cabinet and charged by police for deception and dishonesty, amid claims she used multiple identities and a fake CV to get the job.

It can now be revealed that the Government had already been duped twice before by applicants who used shonky credentials to secure top-paying executive positions in Shared Services SA.

Also a division of DPC, the agency is responsible for payroll, accounts and financial services.

DPC chief executive Don Russell triggered an urgent review of hiring over the revelations about Ms Theriault.

He received early findings late Monday and has now confirmed that two executives appointed in 2011 were later found to have relied on faked qualifications.

One executive, a director of strategic programs in Shared Services, was appointed after a competitive process involving an external recruitment provider. It was later discovered the executive had dishonestly represented his work history and academic qualifications.

They are understood to have been a non-existent master of business administration from the University of Adelaide, and hiding the fact he was sacked from at least two other companies.

It is also understood the man had unpaid parking fines totalling tens of thousands of dollars.

That executive was suspended in September 2012 for misconduct, and then resigned.

The second was appointed as manager of business engineering in Shared Services in 2011 and terminated during probation due to unsatisfactory performance and incorrect statements made in connection with his application for employment. The man submitted a certified copy of qualifications that was accepted on face value but were later proven to be false under scrutiny.

The Opposition has demanded a full review of executive ranks to ensure no other fakes are going undetected, and say it defies belief that the Government could be repeatedly conned.

Dr Russell said he would implement major changes to reduce the risk of hiring frauds in the future.

“As I stated last week, I established an immediate inquiry into the recruitment process that resulted in the appointment of the chief information officer,” he said.

“I was disturbed to learn that two further historic cases were highlighted. It’s clear to me that there have been some failings in the verification and checks on senior appointments.”

Dr Russell said he had ordered detailed police and security checks for senior appointments, with immediate effect. There will also be “increased verification” of work history and qualifications as well as “forensic investigation of candidates’ social media profiles”, Dr Russell said.

He added there would be communication across the department to ensure that selection panel members were aware of best practice, and their due diligence obligations in checking applicants.

Premier Jay Weatherill on Friday said that Ms Theriault’s case was a “rare situation” that involved an “extraordinary act of alleged criminal conduct”. It has triggered a wider maladministration inquiry by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Opposition treasury spokesman Rob Lucas said accusations of fraud within Mr Weatherill’s own department were “a damning indictment of his management” of the public sector.

Mr Weatherill took the job in October 2011, following the exit of predecessor Mike Rann.

“To be fooled (like this) is a sign of a tired, lazy and incompetent Government,” Mr Lucas said. “Mr Weatherill should be condemned for allowing so many of his executives to be appointed without going through a proper, merit-based selection process.

“There needs to be a comprehensive audit of executive level recruitment to ensure there aren’t more cases of fraud at top of the public sector.”

Ms Theriault had been sacked and charged after less than two months in the job.

The ICAC made the arrest on September 15, charging the 44-year-old with deception and dishonestly dealing with documents. She has also been charged with abuse of public office.

When advertised earlier this year, the position carried a salary range of up to $244,000 per year.

It is claimed Ms Theriault lied about past employment history that was said to include work with in the Expedia group of companies, Hewlett Packard, Shell and the BBC.

Ms Theriault’s claimed academic credentials included degrees in mechanical engineering and commerce, as well as a master of business administration from France’s INSEAD school.

Ms Theriault’s brother, 40-year-old Alan Corkhill, was also charged with deception and aiding and abetting the alleged offending after he obtained a lucrative job in DPC under her direction.

A source close to Ms Theriault claims no police or national security check was conducted.

ICAC Commissioner Bruce Lander said on Friday he would “decide whether or not it is in the public interest” for the maladministration inquiry to be made public once it was complete.

Both Ms Theriault and Mr Corkhill are due to appear in court on November 3.

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