Victorian public services slammed for bad printer purchases

By Lilia Guan
During the Ombudsman Victoria’s investigation there was a number of purchasing officers identified who had used public money inappropriately in the purchase of toner cartridges from an unnamed company, by purchasing toner cartridges at inflated prices.
According to the Ombudsman, in one instance the already inflated unit price of a toner cartridge quoted by ‘The Company’ increased by a further $202 per unit from $167 to $369 over a five month period. Throughout this period, OfficeMax toner cartridges cost $99.
They also purchased toner cartridges that were not required, for example, one officer purchased enough black toner cartridges to supply the government department for 40 years – toner cartridges expire after 24 months.
The public services also splitting invoices, for example, my officers identified a purchasing officer who requested that an order from ‘The Company’ be split into four invoices to ensure the total amount of each invoice would not trigger further enquiry.
Ombudsman Victoria was referred the case from the Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia, in April last year.
At the time the Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia was investigating allegations that public officers from Western Australian state and local government agencies were purchasing printer toner cartridges from a toner cartridge supplier (‘The Company’) that was not the authorised government supplier.
The Acting Commissioner advised that ‘The Company’ was Victorian based with a number of subsidiaries trading throughout Australia, selling toner cartridges ‘at 3-4 times the price of genuine cartridges’.
In January 2006 the Victorian Government Purchasing Board (VGPB) established a State Purchase Contract for the use of public bodies when purchasing stationery and office products.
The State Purchase Contract includes the purchase of toner cartridges.
Agencies bound by the State Purchase Contract must purchase toner cartridges in accordance with this contract, the Ombudsman stated.
Victorian public bodies falling outside the scope of the State Purchase Contract have guidelines regarding how purchasing should be conducted.
“In my view, the response to my draft report provided by the Director of Arts Victoria as detailed in this report reflects a reluctance to come to grips with the fact that a lack of management and auditing at Arts Victoria contributed to a culture that allowed the corrupt conduct to go undetected,” the Ombudsman stated.
“It also reinforces the need for a thorough review of the way Arts Victoria is managed.”

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