Victoria University's substandard accounting systems allowed a staff member to fleece it of $481,000, her lawyer says.
Rebekah Procter created a false company and awarded it contracts for things like lift maintenance, cleaning and care of the university grounds.
Working as an accounts manager for the university, she created 106 false invoices and stole almost half a million dollars over three years.
Proctor was sentenced at Wellington District Court yesterday to two years and five months imprisonment.
Her lawyer Phil Mitchell said the offending was not sophisticated and invoices paid by the university were deficient and should have been picked up earlier.
"The system appears to have been fairly lax," he said.
"It is inconceivable that someone could access nearly half a million dollars through invoices that were as basic as the ones that were submitted in this case."
Mr Mitchell then listed all faults that were found in invoices that incurred payments of up to $10,000 a time.
"No GST number, no signature, no website, a very basic-looking generic email address, no contact number.
"It just went on and on, [there were] spartan details of the work that was supposedly carried out - all of these things should have given rise to red flags."
Victoria University said in a statement when irregular financial transactions were uncovered, it engaged experts to carry out an investigation before handing the file to police.
"The university continually reviews its processes and a number have been enhanced since the incident."