The Victorian government has ordered a staffing review after a self-promoting perjurer, who was yesterday convicted of assault, was hired to work in the state’s hotel quarantine system.
- An audit will look into whether people with pending or past criminal convictions have been hired by COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria
- Nelly Yoa, a man with perjury and assault convictions, was hired in December
- The government said its hiring policy for CQV should exclude those with a “significant” criminal history
Nelly Yoa rose to prominence in 2018 and 2019 over a series of discredited public claims, from being a South Sudanese youth mentor, to trialling with top-level soccer clubs, to having Usain Bolt attend the birth of one of his children.
The 32-year-old faced the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, where he pleaded guilty to unlawful assault and was fined $3,000 over an incident in 2019.
He had previously been found guilty of perjury and making a false statement to police.
In Parliament, Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien questioned the state government on how it could justify employing a convicted criminal to manage highly sensitive personal information of Victorians.
Government Services Minister Danny Pearson said the man was employed by COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) and did some training, but did not work a shift.
Mr Pearson said he had requested the CQV commissioner Emma Cassar conduct an audit of staff police checks “to ensure there are no outstanding checks on existing individuals”.
“Significant criminal history precludes a person from being employed by CQV,” he said.
Mr Pearson said it was a requirement for CQV job applicants to complete police checks when they applied for jobs.
“All staff are required to declare at that employment process if they’ve been charged or convicted of an offence when applying with CQV,” he said.
CQV later told the ABC Yoa did not disclose his previous criminal charges or convictions and did not respond to requests for information following the results of a national criminal records check.
The agency restated that he undertook training but did not attend any shifts in hotels and a show cause notice had been sent to him on Wednesday.
‘They’re throwing me under the bus’
Yoa told the ABC he had disclosed his past to CQV in an email in November had they had “spoken about it on numerous occasions”.
“He should apologise to the Parliament and perhaps resign,” Yoa said of Mr Pearson.
“They’re throwing me under the bus.”
Yoa said he was still contracted with CQV until November, and had not been in contact with them on Wednesday.
According to News Corp, Yoa’s lawyer Hazel Whalley told the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court Yoa was hired by the Department of Justice to work in hotel quarantine facilities on a 12-month contract in December.
It is understood Yoa was training as a resident support officer, a job with advertised duties such as escorting returned travellers to hotels, temperature checking and delivering parcels to rooms.
Yoa’s public profile rose when he was featured on the front page of The Age newspaper commenting on youth violence within the Sudanese community.
A range of other outlets, including the ABC and Sky News, also aired his comments.
Within days Yoa’s story began to unravel, when genuine Sudanese community leaders said he had overstated his influence.