Company denies controversial firm used to win contract

Executives from software company Salesforce have denied a controversial lobbying firm linked to former cabinet minister Stuart Robert was used to win a lucrative government contract.

A parliamentary committee is examining National Disability Insurance Scheme and Services Australia contracts linked to the firm Synergy 360, following allegations it was channelling money to a company linked to Mr Robert to win government work.

Appearing before the committee on Monday, Salesforce executives said while they had retained Synergy 360 as a consultant, Synergy 360 was not used to directly win a government contract for the NDIA.

Salesforce was awarded the government contract in April 2020; it was originally worth $27 million, but extended to $100 million over four years.

In its submission to the inquiry, Salesforce said its contract with Synergy 360 for consulting lasted for two years between July 2019 and June 2021, with the software company paying $214,000 during that time to the firm.

Salesforce's senior director Sassoon Grigorian said while there was an overlap, Synergy 360 did not play a role in the government contract.

"I do want to say from the outset that Synergy 360 was not involved in a successful bid with Salesforce to the Australian government," he told the inquiry.

"When we engaged Synergy 360 it was for matters around strategic business advice ... we engaged them for a specific purpose to help our business for that period of time."

Mr Grigorian said Salesforce had met with Mr Robert three times, but the company had not requested any of the meetings.

Two of the meetings took place in June 2019 while the third was in September 2020.

Mr Grigorian said the company was aware of the allegations against Mr Robert and Synergy 360 following the termination of the contract with the firm.

"We made a decision (to engage with Synergy 360) at the time with the information that we had," he said.

Mr Robert has previously denied the allegations made against him.

The allegations had been referred to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, a move he's labelled as political payback.

Mr Robert, who represented the Queensland seat of Fadden, resigned from parliament in May.

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