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Public service turmoil - boss steps in amid questions over hiring of our top mandarins

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Queensland’s public service commissioner has been forced to step in and regain control of the way the state’s most senior mandarins are recruited after what is understood to be a scathing assessment of the integrity of the current process by the crime and corruption watchdog.

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The move is the latest development in a saga that has riven the ranks of the state’s senior public servants for months, preventing several directors-general of departments from being confirmed in their positions, forcing interviews to be re-run and even bringing into question the appointment of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s former right-hand man, Dave Stewart, to a top trade post in London.

The turmoil was sparked by the Crime and Corruption Commission probe into how top public servants are recruited after questions were raised about the alleged involvement of former deputy premier Jackie Trad in appointing Frankie Carroll as her top public servant when she was treasurer.

The LNP’s Tim Mander revealed in state parliament last year he had referred Trad to the CCC after a whistleblower approached him claiming she had interfered in the selection process that led Carroll to be appointed Under Treasurer in 2019.

Neither Trad nor Carroll remain in the government. Trad lost her seat of South Brisbane to the Greens at last year’s election and Carroll now heads up Victoria’s Suburban Rail Loop project.

The CCC would not comment on the outcome of the Opposition’s referral. A spokesman for the Premier, who signs off on all director-general appointments, also declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the CCC.

However, it is understood a subsequent investigation called for major changes and clarifications to the recruitment process for directors-general, with the government forced to re-run job interviews and seek external legal advice on the legitimacy on some appointments, including that of former Premier and Cabinet director-general Dave Stewart to the job of agent-general in London.

Two notable figures – Resources director-general Mike Kaiser and Tourism director-general John Lee – continue to officially act in their roles at the top of the public service despite being recruited to the jobs months ago.

Now, Public Service Commission chief Rob Setter has issued a “directive” clarifying the role and operation of selection panels appointed to decide on chief executives and directors-general.

The directive, quietly gazetted this week, includes rules on how selection panel chairs should deal with integrity issues and perceived conflicts of interest and stresses that chief executive appointments should be made on the merit principles outlined in the Public Service Act.

The directive also insists that a template be provided “for the Premier to identify and record any actual, or reasonably perceived conflicts of interest between Premier and the recommended applicants for the role, and if identified, how the actual or reasonably perceived conflicts of interest were resolved”.

Asked what had prompted the directive, Setter said in a statement that “directives provide rules that Queensland Government departments and employees must follow”.

“Until recently chief executives were the only cohort not subject to a Public Service Commission directive for recruitment and selection. This has now been addressed.”

“Effective from the 9 June 2021, all chief executive appointments are required to comply with the Chief executive recruitment and selection Directive (Directive 01/21).”

Asked if the move was in response to the CCC’s review of the appointment of Carroll as Under Treasurer, he said: “The directive has been issued in response to matters considered by the Crime and Corruption Commission regarding the appointment of chief executives under the Public Service Act 2008“.

As to when the appointments of Kaiser and Lee would be confirmed, Setter said: “Open merit recruitment and selection processes for the positions of Director-General, Tourism, Innovation and Sport and Director-General, Resources are underway and yet to be finalised”.

“The current Directors-General of both departments are appointed to act as Director-General until appointments are made.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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