Principal spends school money on holidays, gambling and alcoholDate posted:
A school principal used his school’s bank account as a personal line of credit obtaining almost $23,000 undetected by the Department of Education and Training, a Victorian Ombudsman investigation found.
From 2016 to 2018, at the principal’s request, the school’s cash cheques were cashed by staff for school equipment and handed to the principal, who deposited the money into his own bank account. He used the money to support his lifestyle – including an overseas trip for his family and for gambling.
Among other things, the investigation found:
- The principal used the school’s purchasing card for hospitality and alcohol including a $1200 staff lunch.
- Thousands of dollars spent annually on gift cards. While some were used to buy gifts for staff, there was evidence the gift cards were also used to buy alcohol.
- While teachers requested reimbursement for stamps worth less than $20, the principal co-signed cash cheques for $10,000 worth of stamps over three years.
- The principal failed to comply with procurement and recruitment policies and procedures.
Tabling her Investigation of protected disclosure complaints regarding the former Principal of a Victorian public school in the Victorian Parliament today, Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said she did not believe the conduct exposed in the report was systemic.
“I do not think many principals help themselves to school funds to support a gambling addiction and overseas holidays, having failed to disclose in their selection process they are a discharged bankrupt,” Ms Glass said.
“I am tabling this report because it highlights an important and systemic weakness in the financial governance of our schools.”
The subject is the fifth school principal criticised in an Ombudsman public report in recent years.
Ms Glass said the school and the Department’s oversight of the principal, who had been declared bankrupt before taking on the role to manage a school with a budget of more than $10 million, was questionable.
She said the school’s internal controls failed to prevent the principal’s misconduct and the Department failed to notice financial and other irregularities at the school.
“The Department of Education and Training missed red flags that might have uncovered some of the conduct sooner,” Ms Glass said.
“The principal in this case was able to get away with his actions for so long because the systems and controls did not work.
“The school’s business manager lacked the qualifications and experience to challenge him, as did the school council and its treasurer.”
The principal has admitted to taking more than $14,000 and cannot recall how much of the money he has returned to the school. He told investigators the use of school money for personal funds was a “mistake and poor judgement”.
NOTE TO EDITORS
- Neither the principal nor the school have been identified in the report as the principal has provided cogent reasons why he should not be identified
- The principal is no longer employed in the Victorian public service
Media contact: Aleks Devic - 0409 936 235