Woman denies govt school contract conflict

·2-min read

A woman accused of fraud and misconduct was working for the Queensland Education Department when a company she set up was awarded a government contract for just over $30,000, a court has been told.

Sarah Regina Esposo was facing a committal hearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Wednesday after being charged three years ago over a school survey contract after an investigation by the state's corruption watchdog.

Prosecutors allege the now 40-year-old and another Education Department staff member had an interest in the company School Measures.

The company - which obtained a $30,360 contract with the department to provide questions for a trial of a school opinion survey - was represented in discussions with the department by Esposo's sister Joanna Maria Kho.

The contract came the year after School Measures provided content to the department for free.

Prosecutor Sarah McCray said the Crown will argue Esposo was working for School Measures while attempting to keep that connection concealed from those in the department making decisions about the contract.

But one of her managers told the hearing Esposo was very open about "psychology work" she did outside the department where she worked part-time in about 2017.

Esposo is charged with one count each of fraud as an employee to the value of more than $30,000 but less than $100,000 and misconduct in public office.

The alleged offences were committed between September 2015 and June 2018.

When Esposo was charged in July 2019, the Crime and Corruption Commission said it would be alleged she attempted to dishonestly gain $2.5 million while employed, in addition to committing the fraud of $30,360.

Barrister Timothy Ryan argued Esposo had no case to answer, saying there is no evidence she made representations to anyone in the department about a contract with School Measures.

But Ms McCray said there was a significant body of electronic evidence showing discussions between parties about a plan involving conflicts of interest and ensuring those were not discovered.

Magistrate Peter Saggers is yet to hand down his decision, with prosecutors due to make submissions on October 12.

Kho and former Education Department employee Roland Hirokazu Simons have already been committed to stand trial in the Brisbane District Court.

All three were charged after an investigation by the Crime and Corruption Commission and the department.

The cases against Kho and Simons are due to be mentioned in the Brisbane District Court on August 18.

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