Stuart Robert met Infosys dozens of times before $191m deal

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Former cabinet minister Stuart Robert met tech giant Infosys more than a dozen times when the company was seeking lucrative contracts including a deal it won to build a government payment system later scrapped at a cost of $191 million.

The company revealed the 11 meetings in answers to a parliamentary inquiry that is examining the close ties between Robert and his consultant friend, David Milo, whose firm Synergy 360 asked companies for “success fees” to line up contracts in Canberra.

Former cabinet minister Stuart Robert met tech giant Infosys more than a dozen times when the company was seeking lucrative contracts with the federal government.Credit: Rhett Wyman

The list of meetings shows that Robert first met Infosys when he was assistant treasurer in September 2018 and that this led to a second meeting at Sydney restaurant Banksii in November that year, as well as talks with the company’s global head of public affairs the same month.

Robert, who was promoted to cabinet as minister for government services after the May 2019 election, also held a meeting with Infosys regional head Andrew Groth and associate vice president Allen Koehn on June 26 at federal offices in Sydney, with Milo present.

The Infosys disclosures do not record any probity officer or federal official joining the June meeting, which came at a sensitive time when Services Australia was planning an ambitious system to calculate payments for pensions and other income support.

Infosys won the bid for the Entitlement Calculation Engine in November 2019 with an initial contract of about $40 million, beating Accenture and IBM to the deal, but it struggled to develop the software and negotiated higher payments from the government.

Services Australia ultimately spent $191 million on the ECE but never put the system into full production, so the project never delivered on its promise to process income support payments.

Infosys received $108 million and told the parliamentary inquiry in June that it paid Milo’s consulting firm $16 million over five years.

Robert said questions about whether he was too close to Infosys were “ridiculous” because he was assistant treasurer in November 2018 and had no idea of any procurements in any department.

“My statements to parliament outline any meetings subsequent that had probity statements at the start, staff involved and never discussed any procurement. Never, not once,” he said.

Robert did not answer other questions including whether he met as often with other bidders for the ECE project.

Groth told the parliamentary inquiry that the June 2019 meeting did not discuss the ECE tender.

Over time, however, the Infosys executives held further meetings with Robert including seven meetings from November 2019 to May 2021 – some in person, some online – that Infosys said were about the progress of the project.

Another meeting, in February 2022, brought Robert and Milo together with Groth from Infosys and Scott Briggs from lobbying firm DPG Advisory to discuss visa processing and moving staff from overseas to Australia, a key issue for Infosys as an Indian software firm. This meeting also discussed the ECE project.

Infosys gave the list of meetings to the parliamentary inquiry, which released the document on Tuesday morning.

The chair of the joint committee of public accounts and audit, Labor MP Julian Hill, noted the meeting with Briggs, a close friend of former prime minister Scott Morrison and a leading proponent of a visa outsourcing project that the Morrison government considered but abandoned in March 2020.

“Infosys has now revealed that former minister Stuart Robert held 11 meetings with them without public servants or probity advisors present,” Hill said.

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