Rort claims spark probe into 23 private tertiary colleges

TWO-THIRDS of Federal Government funding handed out to private tertiary colleges was given to operators that are now under investigation.

The investigation into the conduct of 23 private tertiary colleges collecting funding through the VET-FEE HELP scheme was launched late last month. It includes six organisations operating in Queensland - four with head offices in the state.

The VET-FEE HELP scheme was established in 2009 to help people access further education and training. In the last six years $365 million in Federal Government money has been spent on the scheme.

Figures obtained by The Observer this week from the education department show $236 million of that money went to four of the Queensland organisations under investigation.

And while the names of those organisations have not been released, The Observer has confirmed at least one of them was operating in Gladstone, and another has offices in Rockhampton.

This month assistant minister for education and training Senator Simon Birmingham announced reforms to the VET-FEE HELP scheme after widespread allegations the system was being rorted.

Those changes include outlawing incentives to encourage unsuspecting people to sign up such as a free tablet device or smart phone and targeting people running "miraculously" short courses.

Private trainer Steve Walters is desperate for the government to address this.

He used to do training for large companies in Gladstone including QAL and Rio Tinto.

But said he was pushed out by other private training organisations promising to do the same course in less time.

Mr Walters has been working in the industry for 15 years and said the abuse of the system was widespread.

Between July 2011, the year watchdog ASQA was established, and December 2013 there have been 1272 audits of RTOs in Queensland.

Sen. Birmingham said introducing random audits was part of proposed reforms.

Follow the money

  • In 2013 one of the four Queensland organisations received $130 million, another more than $34 million for the same period
  • An extra $68 million was allocated to ASQA in October last year

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