Sector profile

Corruption and misconduct risks in the education sector

The enduring and emerging corruption and misconduct risks for the education sector identified through IBAC’s work and insights from IBAC’s investigations and reviews of internal investigations.

  • Schools 

    • Inaction, particularly:
      • School leaders failing to investigate misconduct like bullying and harassment
      • School leaders and regional executives failing to follow procurement procedures and conflict of interest requirements when hiring staff
    • Favouritism – preferential treatment and failing to manage conflicts of interest, particularly in matters relating to people management and procurement.
    • Breach of professional boundaries – School principals bullying staff members, leaders engaging in intimidation and bullying of staff after issues were raised or reported.

    Universities, TAFEs and other educational institutions

    • Inaction, particularly:
      • University leaders failing to investigate reports of corruption or misconduct, including sexual harassment
      • TAFE employees failing to audit the service delivery of a contractor
      • TAFE employees recruiting unsuited students into courses
    • Fraud – TAFE training providers falsifying student documentation to assist in gaining government funding, university lecturers falsifying budget figures to embezzle funding.
    • Favouritism – university chief operating officers awarding business contracts to a colleague’s private company, university amending regulations to favour an individual in a university council election.

    Departments and statutory authorities 

    • Inaction – not following procurement processes by allowing an incumbent provider to provide an updated proposal outside of the tender process, failure to adequately investigate allegations of corruption and serious misconduct against a school principal, failures to investigate and act on reports of corruption or misconduct.
    • Breach of professional boundaries – senior officers using their position to improperly influence the outcomes of job opportunities within the agency, managers using their position to change evaluation scores used in a procurement process.
    • Collusion – managers adjusting the requirements for an advertised role to favour a friend.
    • Favouritism – managers employing contractors they had previously worked with, without declaring a conflict of interest, employees distributing a cabinet-in-confidence document to a consultant to offer them an advantage.
  • Schools 

    • Financial management, including the misuse of school funds, fraudulent invoices to receive funds and misuse of payroll, leave and allowances.
    • Teachers’ interactions with students and parents, as well as other staff. IBAC receives many allegations about teachers’ poor conduct although they may not meet the threshold of corruption.
    • Recruitment and promotion, as well as complaints management

    Universities, TAFEs and other educational institutions 

    • People management, including recruitment and promotion. This also includes the application processes for students.
    • Interactions between staff and students, including staff acting inappropriately towards students and for their own benefit.
    • Information management, including unsecure networks open to exploitation or attacks.


    • Procurement and purchasing, particularly ongoing contract management and selection processes.
    • Complaints management.

    Construction and statutory authorities 

    • Contract management (and contractual oversight) of services delivered.
    • Procurement and regulation.
    • Major infrastructure projects, encompassing the aforementioned risks, particularly procurement fraud.
  • Schools 

    • Limited awareness of reporting processes regarding suspected corrupt conduct.
    • Lack of robust frameworks for managing conflict of interest in recruitment and procurement.
    • Inadequate leadership culture that leads to the overall development, or perception, of a discriminatory, bullying or non-transparent culture in a school. 


    • Uncoordinated and inconsistent processes across divisions that make it difficult to detect anomalies.
    • A lack of active leadership culture, which allows for misconduct to continue unchecked.
    • Inadequate or inexperienced board and governance structures within RTOs and universities, including the challenge of attracting board members with appropriate experience and capability.
    • General lack of awareness about corruption, prevention and reporting strategies.

    Departments and statutory authorities 

    • Perceptions within sections of the portfolio on the ability to investigate and communicate the outcomes of investigations into corruption and misconduct, leading to a reduction in the willingness of employees to report.
    • The sector’s large size, and the wide variety of entities within it, creates challenges for identifying agency-specific risks and both formulating and monitoring tailored integrity initiatives.
  • Operation Betka 
    In July 2016, IBAC received a notification from the DET concerning allegations a contracted senior IT project manager was involved in serious corrupt conduct. IBAC investigated allegations that the project manager used his position within the department to provide business opportunities to a company he owned. The company provided almost $14 million in contracted staffing resources to the department between 2003 and 2016.

    IBAC found there were significant failings in how the manager identified, declared, and managed the conflict of interest produced by his concurrent roles at the department and as the director of a company contracting to the department. The project manager failed to appropriately document and manage the conflict of interest. Additionally, IBAC found those responsible for supervising the project manager failed to document, report and monitor his conflict of interest. They also lacked awareness of departmental procurement procedures and policies.

    Operation Franklin 
    In November 2018, IBAC commenced an investigation into alleged corrupt conduct by an administrative employee of a university. IBAC's investigation found the employee used university funds to obtain property with a total value of over $650,000 – namely gift cards, Cab charges, movie tickets and a mobile phone – by deception. Following IBAC's investigation, the employee was sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment after pleading guilty to offences of misconduct in public office and obtaining property by deception and theft.

    Operation Ord
    This major IBAC investigation examined the conduct of then senior DET officers, and others, in connection with the use of ‘banker schools’ and related activities. IBAC’s investigation focused on allegations that senior departmental officers misappropriated funds from the Department’s budget, through false and inflated invoicing as well as arranging payment of inappropriate expenses such as excessive hospitality, travel and personal items.

    Operation Ord resulted in six people, including the Director, being charged with various criminal offences in 2017. In 2021, the Director was sentenced to three years and 10 months in jail. The State Government also commenced civil action against the Director in 2021, seeking to recover up to $6 million. Of the others charged, one received a prison sentence, two received community corrections orders, one received a good behaviour bond and charges were withdrawn against another.

  • IBAC refers some complaints and notifications it receives about alleged corruption to departments and other agencies for investigating, and reviews completed investigations to ensure they are appropriately managed in accordance with public expectations. In particular, that investigations are thorough, impartial and timely, that findings are evidence-based and outcomes fair and reasonable.

    How to improve internal investigations in the education sector 

    • Ensure there is documentation/evidence to demonstrate that an investigation was conducted by a suitably qualified, experienced investigator.
    • Conflicts of interest should be declared on investigation files.
    • Where investigation reports make recommendations to an agency where the alleged corruption occurred:
      • Evidence of improvements to the relevant systems/policies/procedures to prevent future occurrence should be recorded
      • If not implemented, the reasons for this decision should be recorded by the agency
      • Sometimes further investigation is recommended. 
    • Procedural fairness and due process should be provided to the subject of an investigation:
      • give notice of allegations made against them
      • be given an opportunity to respond
      • be advised of the outcome of the investigation
    • Welfare checks should also be conducted when a subject is under investigation.
    • Investigation process should be timely with an explanation provided for any delays.
    • Evidence collected and relied upon for findings and outcomes should be recorded and able to be provided to oversight agencies for review.
    • Agencies should have an investigation policy able that can be provided to subjects or bodies such as IBAC.