22 April 2022

Former CSIRO executive 'lost everything' after defrauding agency out of $320,000

| Albert McKnight
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Mark Wallis

The CSIRO’s former director of business and infrastructure services Mark Wallis, pictured in 2016. Photo: CSIRO.

A former high-ranking member of Australia’s national science agency has admitted he defrauded his organisation out of over $320,000 by buying items like a jetski, a top-of-the-line Lexus and Toyota Hilux for his personal use.

Mark Stuart Wallis, 47, once held a position in the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) as the business and infrastructure services director.

However, according to court documents, he became estranged from his family after committing his crimes and now lives alone in Broulee on the NSW South Coast where he drives school buses.

“I have lost everything due to this,” he told the author of a pre-sentence report.

He began working at CSIRO in 2011 in a $160,000-per year position, and when he was kicked out of the agency in 2017, having been terminated for misconduct, his remuneration had been around $257,000.

Between 2012 and 2017 he used his corporate credit card 35 times to buy about $72,000-worth of personal items, including spending almost $26,000 on a jet ski and trailer from the Canberra Motorcycle Centre, which was later seized by police when they raided his home in Griffith.

He also bought a $5000 gym membership and personal training for his then-wife in 2016, but the largest sum came from the purchase of two cars. He spent $245,000 on a Lexus LX570 and the Hilux in 2015. These cars were also seized.

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Wallis repaid the CSIRO after police had begun investigating him and searched his home twice. In 2018, criminal proceedings were started against him.

In the ACT Supreme Court on Thursday (21 April), Wallis, who also used to work for the Australian Federal Police, pleaded guilty to charges of dishonestly causing a loss to a Commonwealth entity and intentionally using a forged document to obtain a gain.

His brother, Reverend Daniel Wallis, told the court he had been “on top of the world”; he was successful at his CSIRO job, had been a good husband and “lived for [his] kids”.

But Daniel said after he committed his offences his marriage broke up, his son stopped talking to him, his other children have little contact with him and “he’s just coping”.

Crown Prosecutor Natasha Purvis said Wallis’s crimes involved a “high-level breach of trust”, not just from his management role and ability to approve expenditures, but also from how he used CSIRO employees.

When it came to the purchase of the jetski, she said, he deceived colleagues by saying the money was for maintenance costs, then with the gym membership for his wife, he used a colleague to enter it into the agency’s system for him so he could approve it.

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Barrister Margaret Jones SC, representing Wallis, said her client’s life seemed to have been going pretty well with both he and his then-wife having successful careers.

But he had a motorbike accident in 2010 after which his brother noticed behavioural changes. Then he was diagnosed with a serious type of arthritis and allegedly faced bullying at work.

He had “lost everything” as a result of the charges, Ms Jones said, from his home and family to his dignity and respect.

She asked for a suspended sentence, although Ms Purvis said actual jail time was appropriate.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum continued bail and adjourned to 6 May for further evidence and to consider whether she would order a pre-sentence report.

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ChrisinTurner5:31 pm 24 Apr 22

More reasons for the Commonwealth Auditor to be strengthened, rather than suffering current budget cuts.

Sadly, he is still in denial, because he had already decided to “love everything” before he did it.

Yep, when CSIRO changed its business model to ensure that research had a profitable commercial application (apart from the agriculture research which was generally focussed on problem solving) then many respected scientists moved offshore, retired or resigned. Place is now full of ‘research dollar chasers’ and business types.

Capital Retro8:57 pm 24 Apr 22

The CSIRO has become a climate change rent-seeker.

Capital Retro11:05 am 23 Apr 22

How can he be now driving school buses in NSW when In New South Wales, all drivers of public commercial passenger vehicles (CPVs) including those commuting school children must obtain a Criminal Record Check for obtaining a NSW Bus Authority?

He hasn’t been sentenced as yet so has no record

Capital Retro8:55 pm 24 Apr 22

Read it again. He has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Also, the police will always notify agencies and stakeholders who have obtained criminal record checks when any alleged offences occur and that is enough to cancel his license to drive buses.

I was given a non-criminal traffic infringement notice in Canberra some years ago which I elected to take to court and contest rather than pay and the ACT Police immediately contacted a government agency that I was a contractor to and they suspended my security clearance until the fine was paid.

Stephen Saunders7:12 am 23 Apr 22

I am so old, I can remember when CSIRO was a world-respected science agency, not an eager government lapdog, spouting United Nations net-zero propaganda.

One imagines the exchange of facile management speak at the 2011 Wallis selection committee. Due diligence, yeah.

Scott Anthony7:08 pm 22 Apr 22

Far too many words dedicated to repeating the pathetic ‘sob story’ and not enough joy at this clown being caught and going to jail….

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