Student safety was compromised at the University of Sydney when a private security operator deployed "ghost guards" in a scam that cost the institution hundreds of thousands of dollars, a corruption inquiry has been told.
The alleged fraud included one senior Sydney Night Patrol employee, Emir Balicevac, getting paid for more than 500 hours work in one week in October 2016 on top of his standard 40 hours, the Independent Commission Against Corruption heard on Monday.
Mr Balicevac earlier that year used false names to claim 75 hours of wages for the university's Open Day.
"Many hundreds of thousands of dollars must have been paid by the university, unwittingly (for services never rendered)," counsel assisting Phillip English said in his opening statement.
"The fraud occurred by security guards creating false entries on daily time sheets which were later used as the basis for rendering services."
Mr English on Monday said deploying "ghost guards" had "the capacity to create appreciable security risks at the university in terms of student and campus safety".
SNP provided security at numerous University of Sydney campuses from 2009 under a contract worth almost $30 million.
The three-week inquiry is focused on four separate weeks between August 2016 and April 2018 when the university had ad hoc needs - such as open days or removing protesters.
Of the $350,000 the university paid for ad hoc shifts in those weeks more than $120,000 was claimed using ghost guards' details.
SNP subcontracted security services to a company called SIG which provided names and security licences to be used to cover the hours and shifts required.
This data was then used to invoice the university.
At the insistence of chief executive Taher "Tommy" Sirour, SIG then funnelled most of its staff wages through a third company that operated from the same office in order to avoid taxes, workers compensation and superannuation, the inquiry was told.
"Tommy doesn't like to put every single thing on the book," former SIG chief financial officer Qin Li said, adding most of her wage was paid cash in hand.
The inquiry was told Mr Sirour was currently overseas but still offered the opportunity to participate in the investigation.
"He has declined to do so," Mr English said.
The inquiry will also look into the role of university and its former security operations manager Dennis Smith, to whom SNP management reported.
No evidence had been found that the university did daily head counts or spot checks of security guards.
Mr English said the evidence was capable of showing the fraud was able to occur "because of an absence of rigour and probity" both during procurement and ongoing management.
"This lack of oversight ... contributed to an environment in which weakness in the system was able to be exploited," Mr English said.
The University of Sydney is Australia's oldest university and was ranked 42nd in the latest QS World University Rankings.
The inquiry continues.