South Australian public servants faked credentials to work in payroll department

The Opposition has demanded a full review into the scandal to ensure it never happens again.

South Australia’s Opposition has demanded a full review after highly paid executives in the government department responsible for payroll were found to have used fake credentials to get their jobs.

The situation came to light after chief information officer Veronica Theriault was sacked from her position in the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) after less than two months in the job. She has also been charged by police for abuse of public office and deception and dishonesty in dealing with documents. It is claimed she used multiple identities and lied about her employment history and academic credentials to get the post.

The move triggered an urgent review of hiring practices at the department, which revealed that two public servants appointed in 2011 had also relied on bogus qualifications to obtain their jobs at Shared Services SA, a division of the DPC that is responsible for payroll, accounts and financial services.

According to The Advertiser newspaper, a former director of strategic programmes at Shared Services was appointed following a competitive process that involved an external recruitment consultancy. He had claimed to have a non-existent Masters in Business Administration and also hid the fact that he was sacked from at least two other companies.

The executive was also understood to have parking fines totalling tens of thousands of Australian dollars. He was suspended in September 2012 for misconduct and subsequently resigned.

A second former public servant was also appointed as a manager of business engineering in 2011 but was dismissed during his probationary period due to an unsatisfactory performance and incorrect statements relating to his employment application. He submitted certified copies of qualifications that were proven to be false under scrutiny.

The Opposition party has demanded a full review across all executive ranks to ensure that no one else has been hired under similar false pretences.

DPC chief executive Don Russell said he had already ordered detailed police and security checks to take place for senior appointments, with immediate effect. He also promised there would be “increased verification” of job applicants’ work history and qualifications as well as “forensic investigation of candidates’ social media profiles”.