GOTAFE probe to be carried out by former Brimbank Council chairman of administrators John Watson

THE Victorian Government has ordered an independent probe into Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE to test allegations taxpayers money has been abused.

GOTAFE, which has campuses in Wangaratta and Benalla, has already been ordered to payback $1.7 million in funding related to contractual non-compliance for training packages, enrolment of students into inappropriate courses and interstate enrolments first highlighted in September last year.

An immediate freeze was put in place for all new enrolments in travel and tourism, hospitality and meat processing programs.

But the Victorian Training and Skills minister Gayle Tierney vowed the full independent inquiry would “get to the bottom of problems identified at GOTAFE” in the areas of governance and compliance.

“Since coming to government we have boosted quality assurance, introduced tougher contracts for providers and made record investments in TAFE necessary to build the high quality training sector Victorians deserve,” she said.

“We make no apologies for taking all necessary steps to ensure the integrity and reputation of our TAFE system is of the highest standard.”

The inquiry to be led by John Watson will be carried out over the next six weeks.

He was previously chairman of administrators at the Brimbank Council following the removal of councillors in 2009.

It’s expected the GOTAFE board will work closely with Mr Watson during the inquiry.

GOTAFE chairwoman Joanne Dwyer confirmed the inquiry was taking place.

“This review follows identification of several breaches late last year,” she said.

“GOTAFE welcomes the review and is co-operating with the independent expert and the Department of Education and Training to ensure we provide the best outcome for students and staff.

“During this time, it will be business as usual for our training staff and students and we aim to maintain the high standards of teaching that has made GOTAFE such a successful training institution.”

GOTAFE wouldn’t confirm whether the freeze on enrolments was still in place.

The opposition's training spokeswoman and Euroa MLA Steph Ryan said GOTAFE students were entitled to full disclosure of what was happening at the training centre.

“There has been no information as to what the full extent of the problems are,” she said.

“The students deserve those answers.

“GOTAFE is a major provider of training in our region and we need to know the extent of these problems.

“Gayle Tierney has been hiding the results of an investigation by the department for months.

“It was commissioned last year and the opposition in question time has repeatedly asked her for more information about the concerns at GOTAFE.

“She needs to release the results of that investigation.”