Synergy Group states zero link to Stuart Robert controversy

30 November 2022 3 min. read
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Canberra-based consultancy Synergy Group has been moved to issue a statement clarifying that it’s not in any form related to Synergy 360 – the company at the centre of improper lobbying allegations regarding former Liberal minister Stuart Robert. Also based in Canberra, Synergy 360 is said to have received advice from Robert and used his connections to support clients with landing lucrative government contracts.

As first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, leaked emails from 2017 and 2018 show Robert and Synergy 360 – owned by CEO David Milo and Robert’s close friend and former business partner John Margerison – discussed means of gaining access to various ministers on behalf of 360’ clients, including IT consulting and services giants Infosys and Unisys.

Robert also spruiked the wares of Milo and 360 to other potential corporate clients.

In the days since the report was first published, Government Services Minister Bill Shorten has referred all contracts linked to Synergy 360 for review, while also issuing a stinging rebuke. “Using public office as a politician to enrich your private friends and mates, including political donors, is not a shade of grey,” Shorten told Parliament. “If and when public office has been used to enrich private mates, it is corruption.”

For his part, Robert has brushed aside any accusations of wrongdoing in his dealings with 360, while Milo has denied the company, which isn’t listed on the lobbyist’s register as would be required, works in such a capacity. Yet, outside of the leaked emails and rare, barefaced insight into the backroom workings of government and political influence when it comes to big business, it would be otherwise unclear what Synergy 360 did.

According to its website, Synergy 360 is a professional services and IT consulting firm, which provides program assurance and support, project management and governance, IT consulting, strategic business advice and specialised technical services to federal government and corporate clients. The website also notes bid/tender support and management as an offering, yet doesn’t feature any clients or leadership personnel as is often common.

As to the eleven directors and consultants attached to the company on LinkedIn, Synergy 360 appears to have sprung out of Deloitte, where Milo was a partner between 2012 and 2017. Simon Britton (Synergy 360 general manager of operations), Andrew Harrison (director of consulting), Tom Wood (director of supply chain) and Nader Anabtawi (general manager of federal pursuits) have also all served in senior leadership positions at Deloitte.

Synergy Group

Founded in 1999, Synergy Group meanwhile has a headcount of around 500 consultants supporting Commonwealth agencies with strategic planning, assurance, program delivery, change management, digital transformation, and resourcing and staffing among other areas. The company’s website features dozens of consultant and senior leadership profiles, including that of chief executive Toni Marzulli, who was appointed to the role earlier this year.

“Many of our clients and members of the community refer to our firm as Synergy,” Marzulli stated in a response to the recent reports. “We are requesting your cooperation to ensure that we avoid any potential confusion amongst our staff, clients, and the community. We would like to make it clear that there is no relationship at all between the business operations or ownership, either formal or informal, between Synergy Group and Synergy 360.”