AN independent investigation into allegations made against Hunter-based TAFE NSW employees has found evidence of "corrupt conduct", but said it's at the "lower end in terms of seriousness".
TAFE NSW engaged Workdynamic Australia - which advises corporations and government agencies on employment law issues - to investigate, after a former Hamilton campus teacher made nine allegations against one employee and two against a second employee in a public interest disclosure in late 2018.
The discloser made another three allegations during the course of the investigation and raised a number of additional matters the Workdynamic director, who authored the confidential investigation report, was "instructed not to include as part of the scope of this investigation".
The NSW Opposition called for papers and the government tabled a redacted version of the 51-page report in the NSW Legislative Council last week.
The director wrote in the report they "accept" the employee who was the subject of the nine allegations had engaged in conduct that substantiated or partially substantiated five of the allegations.
All other allegations were not substantiated or there was insufficient evidence to substantiate them.
This employee is still working at TAFE NSW.
"I consider [the employee] to have breached certain provisions of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Practices which deal with record-keeping and by failing to act with honesty and transparency," the report executive summary said.
"In one case... I accept that [their] conduct resulted in a failure to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others in the workplace."
The report said the Workdynamic director was satisfied that each substantiated matter "constitutes 'corrupt conduct' as per the definition set out in the ICAC Act and the TAFE NSW Public Interest Disclosures Procedure".
"However I consider these findings of corrupt conduct to be at the lower end in terms of seriousness."
The report said the Workdynamic director accepted that the employee "engaged in 'misconduct'... in particular I accept that [the employee] engaged in 'conduct that justifies the taking of disciplinary action'."
The investigation found that since at least 2015, the employee directed part time casual teachers to record in their teacher program diaries (TPD) a false commencement time of 8.30am, when they frequently started work around 7.30am or earlier to complete related duties to prepare for classes.
However the report said it did not accept "any of the staff members in question performed work for which they were not being paid" because the "TPDs of the staff members in question ultimately recorded these additional hours worked, but were likely to have been placed at a different spot within the TPDs".
The report said the investigation found the employee repeatedly directed another employee to record false entries in their TPD, to show a half hour break after completing preparation and before they started teaching that did not occur.
The report said while the employee had a valid basis to direct the employee to take a break at this time, "I do not consider it appropriate for [the employee] to have directed [the other employee] to change [their] TPD after the fact (in circumstances where no such break was in fact taken)".
The investigation found that from 2015 to 2018, the employee instructed a staff member to record false entries in their TPDs in relation to time spent entering data into and addressing issues with the EBS, or Educational Business System.
The report said the time should not have been considered teaching time and should have been recorded as 'release time', as it later was.
The report said the practice did not result in the staff member performing work for which they were not paid and that there were no "serious practical consequences".
The report said the investigation found the employee authorised at least one staff member to record administration tasks in connection with [learning resources company] Futura's system as teaching time on their TPD, which was "not an accurate description".
A TAFE NSW spokesperson said the organisation is "committed to promoting a culture of transparency and accountability where staff are comfortable and confident about reporting any known or suspected concerns".
"TAFE NSW takes public interest disclosures very seriously, and engaged a specialist external law firm to fully investigate the matters raised," the spokesperson said. "These investigations are now complete, and all recommendations have been adopted."
Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council Adam Searle called on June 17 under Standing Order 52 for the report dated February 26, 2020, to be tabled.
The government made a claim for privilege, but the house voted on August 6 for a redacted version to be tabled.
Shadow TAFE and Skills Minister Jihad Dib said if the government "had its way the report would be hidden away under lock and key".
"Had it not been for parliamentary mechanisms, this report would never have seen the light of day," he said.
"People need to have faith if there's a problem the government will be transparent about it."
Mr Dib said there was a "great deal to digest" in the report that "point to areas of major concern and the need to reform current practices".
"This report has many elements that ring alarm bells," he said.
"Any insinuation or any finding of corrupt conduct, misconduct or unethical behaviour - even at a low level - is a major concern and needs to be addressed.
"I'm hoping if anything comes out of this report it's a change in systems, to behaviour, to processes, to ensure people are heard and this kind of thing doesn't happen again."
The discloser said they had been "forced" to resign since the disclosure.
"I'm disgusted in the fact corruption has been exposed," they said.
"Don't call it low level, corruption is corruption."
The discloser said they felt "vindicated" and emotional that "what I did speak up against was actually upheld".
The NSW Teachers Federation did not respond to request for comment.
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