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Former Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann — now the boss of the OECD — went to work for the former CEO of PwC Australia almost immediately after leaving parliament.

Luke Sayers, who was PwC Australia CEO from 2012 to 2020, and so for the entire tax leaks affair, has made the explosive admission in response to questioning from a Senate inquiry.

It follows startling revelations Sayers gave Cormann secretive “equity” — via a bare trust and so hidden from the public — in the “consultancy” Sayers created immediately after leaving PwC in March 2020.

“Sayers gave Cormann secretive equity via a ‘bare trust’ hidden from the public”

As Finance Minister, from 2013 to 2020, Cormann oversaw — and was a fierce defender of — an explosion in taxpayer funds being directed to the “Big Four”, for jobs previously undertaken by the public service.

The creation of a “shadow public service” — often providing services at vastly inflated prices — saw taxpayer funds given to the Big Four accounting and consultancy firms explode from $282 million in 2012-13 to over $1.4 billion in 2021-22 — an increase of over 400 per cent.

Sayers was one of the biggest beneficiaries: he received $30m as PwC Australia CEO between 2012 and 2020, as PwC’s contracts and profits exploded.

“Sayers was one of the biggest beneficiaries of Cormann’s largess”

How the Big Four “infiltrated governments”. Source: ABC


Data from the Centre for Public Integrity, an anti-corruption body formed by former top Australian judges, shows that between 2013 and 2020, while Cormann was Finance Minister, Federal Government payments to Sayers’ PwC Australia for “management advisory services” exploded by more than 17 times — from $5.8m to $101.4m.

Australian Government procurement is managed by the Department of Finance, for which the Finance Minister is fully responsible.

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Under Cormann, “management advisory services” contracts to PwC soared 17.5 times. PwC Source: Centre for Public Integrity


Like PwC, Sayers Group makes large amounts of money through government contracts by providing services previously undertaken by public servants.

In apparent contradiction to earlier official statements he made to the Senate inquiry, Sayers has now admitted that Cormann worked for Sayers Group.

“Sayers has now admitted that Cormann worked for Sayers Group”

The explosive revelations are contained in responses to questions the inquiry put to Sayers on November 27, which Sayers responded to last week, days before the Christmas break.

Cormann allegedly worked for Sayers Group sometime in the handful of months between when he departed as Finance Minister, in October 2020, and started as OECD Secretary-General.

“In the period after retiring as Finance Minister and before taking on the job as OECD Secretary-General, Mr Cormann did some work for Sayers Group,” Sayers has told the inquiry.

Luke Sayers. Source: Supplied


Sayers does not state what “work” Cormann undertook for Sayers Group, the specific period he was employed, or what Cormann was paid.

The revelations are set to ignite a scandal which has been quietly simmering in the background for weeks, but which has attracted remarkably little media attention to date.

In January it was revealed PwC took confidential Australian Government tax policy data — gleaned while providing government “advice” on new laws to stop multinational tax avoidance — and spruiked it behind-the-scenes to multinationals seeking to avoid Australian tax.

PwC Australia obtained the data between 2013 and 2018 and shared it widely, including with PwC offices in London, New York, Ireland and Singapore.

Despite being PwC Australia CEO from 2012 to 2020 — and having long publicly spruiked the importance of “transparency” and “accountability” — Sayers, for many months, steadfastly refused to comment.

Sayers has grown extremely wealthy from Australian taxpayers. Source: The Klaxon


On October 14 he appeared before the Senate inquiry into consultancies, which was formed in response to the PwC scandal and is comprised of members of each of Australia’s main political parties.

His performance — including claims he could not “recall” key events and that he knew nothing of the tax leaks affair as PwC CEO — was met with deep skepticism by the inquiry.

In June the inquiry issued an extremely damning interim report, titled PwC: A Calculated Breach of Trust, which found PwC had “engaged in a deliberate strategy” to cover-up the tax leaks affair “over many years”.

Sayers is also the president of AFL’s Carlton Football Club.

On November 2, Sayers provided the inquiry with responses to “questions on notice”, and provided a second set of responses last week, on December 22.

In October allegations emerged that Cormann had been given “equity” in Sayers Group, and that it had been issued by Sayers via a “bare trust”, and so hidden from the public.

Sayers confirmed those claims in his November 2 response to the inquiry, but at the same time he appeared to distance Cormann from Sayers Group.

“Mr Cormann relinquished his equity and is therefore no longer in the trust,” Sayers wrote.

“Mr Cormann’s equity was originally allocated in the anticipation that he may join Sayers Group as a Partner, an outcome that did not eventuate”.

No explanation was given as to why Cormann was given the equity before actually joining as Sayers Group partner, why it was issued to him via a “bare trust”, how much “equity” he was given, or when it was “relinquished”.

Cormann’s international campaign cost $11,000 a day for the jet alone. Source: Guardian Australia


Sayers’ December 22 response also fails to answer any of those questions.

Neither response mentions whether Cormann received any dividends or other benefits from the equity.

As previously revealed by The Klaxon, in just the two years to May this year, Sayers Group received 17 Federal Government contracts totalling $6.26m.

The Cormann equity transaction is particularly curious. That’s because after leaving parliament on November 6, 2020, Cormann immediately began aggressively campaigning for the position of OECD Secretary-General — and at substantial taxpayer expense.

On November 7, the day after leaving parliament, Cormann embarked on a 33-day international campaign, visiting more than a dozen countries aboard a Royal Australian Air Force jet, which alone cost $11,000 a day.

Cormann’s taxpayer-funded campaign — which culminated in him being announced as the OECD’s next Secretary-General on March 5, 2021 — also included a “campaign taskforce” of 8.5 full-time-equivalent staffers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.



July 5, 2020 – Cormann announces he will resign from parliament later in year

Oct 8, 2020 – Coalition Government announces it will nominate Cormann as OECD boss

Oct, 20 2020 – Cormann departs as cabinet minister

Nov 6, 2020 — Cormann departs as Senator

Nov 7, 2020 — Cormann starts international tour

Dec 10, 2020 — Cormann returns to Australia, enters quarantine

Dec 2020 — Cormann “becomes shareholder” of Sayers Group

Mar 5, 2021 — OECD announces appointment of Cormann as Secretary-General

June 1, 2021Cormann starts five-year term as OECD boss


In last week’s statement, Sayers says Cormann was issued equity in Sayers Group in “December 2020” — which was just weeks after Cormann left Federal parliament on November 6.

“Cormann was issued equity in Sayers Group in ‘December 2020’, just weeks after leaving Federal Parliament”

It provides almost no other information about the secretive equity deal.

Cormann and Sayers have repeatedly refused to respond to written questions The Klaxon has put to them about these matters since November 17.

That Cormann worked for Sayers Group, and that he did so almost immediately after leaving parliament, is particularly explosive because Cormann not only presided over the vast increase in spend to consultants, he was the Coalition’s biggest defender of the practice — even as widespread concerns were raised about rampant waste.

“Cormann not only presided over the vast increase in spend to consultants, he was the Coalition’s biggest defender of the practice”

Cormann was one of the Coalition Government’s most senior figures.

He was Australia’s longest-serving Finance Minister (2013 to 2020) and between 2018 and 2019 he was also Australia’s Public Service Minister — having been appointed to that role by Scott Morrison, when Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister.

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Cormann defends the surging contractor spend in 2018. Source: AFR


By 2018, major concerns about the vast growth in consultancy spending under the Coalition had begun to emerge.

An April 2018 report found that since the Coalition came to power in 2013, Australian taxpayers had been charged $1.7bn for “outsourcing” to the Big Four firms — PwC, KPMG, EY and Deloitte — and that the spend was increasing.

At the same time, another report found the number of public servants was at a ten-year low.

In October 2018, in his first major speech as Public Service Minister, Cormann not only defended the surging consultancy spend — he called for a transformation of the public service by having public servants rotate through the private sector.

“In a 21st-century context it is well understood and accepted that the public service does not have an exclusive monopoly on developing, packaging and providing a closed set of policy options to government, or on delivering services on behalf of government,” Cormann said.

“The public service does not have an exclusive monopoly on…delivering services on behalf of government” — Mathias Cormann, October 2018

Fulfilling an election promise, the ALP Federal Government launched an audit of the public service workforce, conducted by the Department of Finance.

The findings, released in May, sent shockwaves around the nation.

Under the Coalition, a giant “shadow public service” had been created, which was now one-third the size of the actual public service.

The audit, conducted by the Department of Finance (formerly overseen by Cormann), found consultants formed 53,900 full-time-equivalent positions, on top of the reported public service headcount of 144,300.

In just 2021-22, the Coalition’s last year in power, the outsourcing cost taxpayers $20.8 billion.

The Coalition capped the public service in 2015, which allowed it to claim cost “reductions”, but at the same time it increased enormously its spend on contractors.

“While the Coalition pretended to cap the size of the public service, they were signing contracts by the billions to outsource work that still had to be done,” said Public Service Minster Katy Gallagher.

“What we have uncovered is the extent of the former Coalition government’s shadow workforce that was plugging gaps in the APS created by their arbitrary cap on the number of government employees”.

In May the Centre for Public Integrity reported Federal Government payments to the Big Four had ballooned from $282m in 2012-13 to $1.4bn in 2021-22.


The Centre for Public Integrity research committee. Source: The Centre for Public Integrity


In a July study it specifically examined “management advisory services”, the biggest subset of the Big Four contracts.

In real terms, the value of “management advisory services” had exploded from $44m in 2012-13, to $605m in 2021-22 — more than 12 times.

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Big Four contracts, including for “management advisory services”, soared under Finance Minister Cormann. Source: Centre for Public Integrity


Between 2013 and 2020, while Cormann was Finance Minister, Federal Government payments to PwC Australia for “management advisory services” exploded by more than 17 times, from $5.8m to $101.4m.

“Current procurement disclosure requirements and practices mean that precisely what is purchased with taxpayer dollars is frequently opaque, leaving government unable to assure the public that they are receiving value for money,” the Centre for Public Integrity report says.

“The dearth of meaningful transparency in respect of procurements costing Australian taxpayers vast sums is deeply concerning”.

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Anthony Klan

Editor, The Klaxon

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