Government ‘looking for scapegoats’: Why this CEO owes $1.5m

The CEO of a failed education company says its demise is “the doing of two government agencies”, who ultimately wear responsibility for the 2000 students left without the certificates they paid for, or a refund.


Get Qualified Australia (GQA) was an education consultant that assisted job seekers in obtaining qualifications in industries, such as beauty, construction and business.

However last Friday the company was declared “unable to pay its debts” and would be voluntarily wound-up, with Blair Pleash of insolvency firm Hall Chadwick appointed as the liquidator.

A report reveals more than $1.5 million remains owing to unsecured creditors, which include Facebook and Google Adwords, owed $364,779 and $450,000 respectively.

It remains unclear how much is owed to the 2000 affected consumers, however Fairfax Media is aware of a number of consumers who have paid up to $5500.

One client, 28-year-old Chris*, said GQA called him as recently as last week “asking for more money”.

“They said they had a whole new team and were ready to conduct business, as long as I pay an outstanding $200,” said Chris, who paid $975 almost two years ago, for a Diploma of Project Management he has never received.

“They kept extending me, asking me for extra money, but I never even got an email about the qualification.”

The decision to wind-up came fewer than 10 days before GQA faces the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in the Federal Court, over allegations of misleading and unconscionable conduct.

The court action, commencing March 28, follows a freezing order successfully brought against the company last year in response to a large number of consumer complaints.

Earlier this month the Australian Skills and Quality Authority (ASQA) also stripped three of the company’s training organisations of their registration as vocational education providers.

GQA’s chief executive Adam Wadi told Fairfax Media the fact that 2000 students will hang in limbo and 30 employees will be out of a job was, “the doing of [the ACCC and ASQA] who supposedly were protecting the applicants that are now left with nothing to show for [their money].”

Mr Wadi linked the company’s demise to the ACCC’s court action, which he argues was politically motivated, but “very defendable”.

“The ACCC is looking for scapegoats for the waste of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money [in the VET-FEE sector],” he said.

“As a result of the freezing orders and the ACCC’s and ASQA’s actions, GQA has been starved of funds, placing [it] in a difficult financial position.”

The ACCC action was launched last year in response to the finding that, since January 2015, more than half of its customers had not obtained their qualification, despite paying fees of up to $8500.

The watchdog alleges the company failed to honour a “100 per cent money back guarantee” for customers who did not obtain a qualification, used unfair sales tactics and insisted on up-front payments.

Mr Wadi maintains that GQA “never commits” to issuing a qualification and grants refunds if they are warranted.

“We don’t issue qualifications unless our assessor is confident that person [is eligible],” he said.

“I [wonder] why the ACCC are coming after a company that had nothing to do with VET FEE-HELP…and doesn’t get…any government funding.”

Mr Wadi said GQA had been tarnished “with the same brush as most of the dodgy VET FEE-HELP training organisations.”

Days after his appointment as liquidator, Mr Pleash told Fairfax Media it was “not looking good” for customers and creditors, as the company did not have “a substantial amount of funds in the bank account,”

A summary of GQA’s affairs in the creditors’ report reveals just over $1600 in cash at the bank and $210,012.97 in plant and equipment.

After creditors meet next week, Mr Pleash said his investigation will begin, “with respect to breaches of director’s duties, voidable transactions and the possibility of insolvent trading”.

*Surname withheld on request