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Corporate watchdog boss steps aside over $118,000 tax advice payment


The chairman of the corporate watchdog ASIC is standing aside pending a review of expenses.

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James Shipton was told by the auditor-general of concerns about $118,000 in payments made on his behalf relating to tax advice and $70,000 to deputy chair Dan Crennan relating to housing expenses.

The expenses related to Shipton’s return to Australia from the US in 2018 and Crennan’s move from Melbourne to Sydney.

The auditor-general found the total remuneration paid to both officials “may exceed the limits set within the relevant Remuneration Tribunal determinations”.

Shipton and Crennan have agreed to repay the expenses.

The auditor recommended to ASIC it review the way pay and benefits for executive officers are approved and procurement processes around payments made for the chair’s tax advice.

ASIC has accepted the recommendations.

Shipton said the processes supporting the approval of the relocation expenses were “inadequate”.

“And, given the high standard ASIC holds itself to, it is disappointed that such situation has occurred.”

Shipton said he had advised the treasurer it was appropriate to stand aside pending the outcome of the review.

“Whilst I believe that I have acted properly and appropriately in this matter, I hold myself to the highest possible standard.”

An economics committee hearing on Friday, from which Shipton recused himself, was told the treasurer’s office had been informed of the issue on September 15.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – who noted in a media release he had been informed of the matter by the auditor-general on Wednesday – said he had asked Treasury to undertake an independent review into the findings of the Australian National Audit Office.

“Following the review, Treasury will advise me on the findings of the review and any further course of action that may be appropriate.”

The independent review will be undertaken by Dr Vivienne Thom and is expected to be completed with the full co-operation of ASIC by the end of the year.

Asked whether there could be systemic problems with expenses in government agencies and departments which need a broader examination, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “It will be important to receive the recommendations of the inquiries.”

“It may well be that that (broader review proposal) comes forward – let’s wait and see.”


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