This report follows the third referral to the Victorian Ombudsman's office directly from Parliament within the last four years, and the first referral ever made to the Ombudsman from the Legislative Assembly. Two of those three recent referrals from Parliament required the Ombudsman to investigate Members’ uses of their Parliamentary allowances.
This referral required the Victorian Ombudsman to investigate allegations that 40 current or former Liberal Members of Parliament knew, or ought to have known, about invoicing fraud committed by the former Liberal Party State Director, Damien Mantach, from 2010 to 2015. The fraud had been detected by the Liberal Party in 2015, and Mr Mantach had pleaded guilty to obtaining financial advantage by deception for which he was sentenced in 2016. The Party also paid back the $175,446 then identified as having been paid from Parliamentary funds.
An investigation can result in exoneration, and this was the case in this instance, where the Ombudsman found no culpability on the part of any of the named MPs. They had paid for printed goods, which they received, and although detail was lacking in many invoices, at a price they could not reasonably have been expected to query. Mantach’s fraudulent activity was also heightened during election periods when MPs would have naturally been focussed on campaigning.