Embattled former Coalition minister Stuart Robert is facing a new investigation into meetings he took as a minister with a business associate and their Canberra firm who he had previously advised on their bids for IT contracts worth tens of millions of dollars.

New reports revealed Mr Robert, while serving as a minister, had meetings with a Canberra firm owned by friends and a former business partner, John Margerison, which was in the business of lobbying for lucrative IT contracts.

Meetings with Mr Robert were also arranged by the firm on behalf of wealthy clients.

The New Daily understands the widening investigation into Mr Robert and this firm has at least $300 million in contracts in its scope, based on early revelations and work by investigators.

Demand to public servant

In an extraordinary development, Mr Robert contacted the senior public servant part-leading that investigation and demanded she attest to his innocence.

Mr Robert did not convey this request in a formal letter in keeping with the etiquette of contacting a top executive and seemed to also make a demand: Could the CEO also confirm this by 1 pm – an email sent only little more than four hours previously.

It is not known how the CEO might have been able to reach such a conclusion or what standard of probity Mr Robert had in mind.

Mr Robert even writes says his department would find proof his actions on a particular grant case had been conducted in a way that met ethical standards.

In parliament, Mr Robert denied there was anything unusual about his contact with Rebecca Skinner, the department CEO who once answered to Mr Robert but who now leads the body tasked with investigating him, and his request that she affirm his total probity.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten condemned in parliament what he said was “bullying” of Ms Skinner, and told Mr Robert to direct future correspondence to him personally.

Attempts to contact Ms Skinner were not successful but she is highly respected around Canberra where she has worked in top departments for 30 years.

Mr Robert declined to comment when asked why he thought it appropriate to apply a deadline or contact the public servant.

But in P\parliament he said he was only seeking information that he thought would be provided for the parliament.

“I reiterate that all departmental procurements were run with the highest levels of probity,” he said on Thursday.

Review welcomed

Mr Robert welcomed the review, which Mr Shorten said would get to the heart of whether there had ever been a perceived conflict arising from Mr Robert’s business affairs.

Mr Shorten had already promised an investigation into the links between the firm, Synergy 360, and Mr Robert – his predecessor as minister in that role and the NDIS portfolio.

A client of that firm, Infosys, Mr Robert announced in 2019, had won a multi-million-dollar tender for Centrelink, for which they were to develop an “Entitlement Calculation Engine”.

They were paid a total of $135 million for the entitlement work but additional companies were hired to complete it.

“I think the detail is extremely concerning,” Mr Shorten said.

“I want to find out how the contract was allocated, I want to get to the history of this process; it’s big money.

“I’m not saying there’s fire yet, but the smoke hasn’t blown away, in fact it’s getting thicker.”

Nine newspapers had previously reported that Mr Robert had allegedly helped the same company while serving as a backbencher in 2017 and 2018 by giving them advice.

Mr Robert defended that practice by saying he met with “stakeholders” routinely for work.

The New Daily revealed that Mr Roberts was also a shareholder in a company that received payments from a department he ran as a minister. He has disclosed those shares were held in a trust run by Mr Margerison, but later deleted such information from his interests register.

A vehicle of Mr Margerison took on shares in the company anywhere up to a month after Mr Robert exited.

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