Education Department employees stole millions of dollars from Victoria’s state school system, a devastating IBAC investigation has found.Former senior bureaucrat Nino Napoli and some of his relatives and associates “corruptly obtained” at least $1.9 million through the payment of dodgy invoices over seven years.

In addition, Napoli and his associates used money intended for poor schools on “alcohol, hospitality and generous overseas travel”.

IBAC found the amount of money misappropriated could be “significantly greater” than $1.9 million, with suspicions raised over contracts worth $3.3 million awarded “following a dubious process or awarded to entities with whom Mr Napoli had a close relationship”.

IBAC’s Operation Ord investigation into the Education Department found there was a culture in which “misconduct and corrupt conduct was able to flourish for at least seven years, and probably significantly longer”.

It recommended people whose behaviour was found to be “improper or corrupt” be prevented from working in schools and the state’s education system again.

IBAC commissioner Stephen O’Bryan said Operation Ord had exposed “serious and systemic corruption” within the Education Department.

“The Victorian community vests considerable trust in the public sector employees who are responsible for running the state’s education system and giving our children the best possible start in life,” Mr O’Bryan QC said.

“The knowledge that funds intended to support the education of some of the state’s most disadvantaged children were diverted by senior departmental officers for their own personal gain is understandably a cause for significant public concern.”