At least seven top public officials have been allegedly illegally paid for holding two jobs at the same time, with PM&C boss Glyn Davis telling the Department Secretaries who made the appointments to “seek legal advice”.
Almost a year to the day after the Commonwealth Ombudsman requested a review – and following repeated inquiries from The Klaxon – the nation’s most powerful department says it has found seven officials who may have been illegally paid for holding two jobs.
Under Remuneration Tribunal laws, with some limited exceptions, it is illegal for a full-time government official to also be paid for a part-time government role.
“Seven…individuals…may have held concurrent full-time and part-time positions for which remuneration was payable,” the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet told The Klaxon.
“There are five cases remaining which are still being investigated”.
Two of the cases had been “remediated” (PM&C did not say whether the money was repaid) while the five other cases had been referred “to the responsible agency head” for “further investigations”.
PM&C did not disclose the names of those involved.
The departmental secretaries who made the appointments – and who oversaw, or are continuing to oversee, the allegedly illegal payments – could face penalties, including under the PGPA Act.
“The responsibility for employee remuneration lies with agency heads under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (PGPA) Act 2013,” PM&C said in a statement last night.
“On 21 November 2022, Secretary Davis wrote to relevant department Secretaries identifying the five specific cases and advising that the responsible agency head undertake further investigations and, if necessary, seek legal advice”.
“Relevant department Secretaries…(should) if necessary, seek legal advice” – Glyn Davis
Davis has also written to all other department Secretaries, on November 21, Monday last week.
“Secretary Davis…wrote to all department Secretaries to ensure arrangements are in place in their portfolio to mitigate against the possibility of a part-time office holder receiving a remuneration concurrently with a full-time office in the future,” the PM&C statement says.
On December 2 last year the Commonwealth Ombudsman instructed PM&C – then under the control of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison – to review all appointments over concerns of officials being illegally paid for multiple jobs.
It was the result of a secret year-long investigation the Ombudsman had conducted into Chris Jose, a top boss at media regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), having been illegally paid for two jobs.
Between May 2018 and April 2020 Jose, who is also a Pentecostal pastor, was paid for his full-time role at the ACMA as well as being illegally paid as a boss of the National Competition Council (NCC), a part-time role.
The Klaxon revealed the scandal in January it obtained a copy of the Ombudsman’s 41-page report, titled “OFFICIAL: Sensitive Legal Privilege”.
It would remain hidden from the public except for a leak to The Klaxon.
Last night the Senate passed legislation for a National Anti-Corruption Commission which will, at the request of Opposition leader Peter Dutton – and against expert advice – hold hearings in secret unless there are undefined “exceptional circumstances”.
The Klaxon has been seeking information about the Ombudsman’s request for a “review” for many months.
In a statement yesterday, PM&C said Davis was “briefed on this matter on 31 August 2022 and again on 3 November 2022”.
August 31 was nine months after PM&C received the Ombudsman request, and three months after Davis’ appointment as PM&C Secretary (on May 30, when he replaced Phil Gaetjens).
The Klaxon sought responses from PM&C regarding the “review” on August 24, August 26 and August 27, August 30 and August 31.
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The Klaxon sought information about the “review” again in September and earlier this month.
On September 3, The Klaxon revealed another public official, Julie Quinlivan, had been paid for two government roles.
For four-and-a-half-years, Quinlivan was paid as both the full-time boss of the Public Services Review (PSR) and as a part-time member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
Quinlivan denies any wrongdoing and says her appointments were within the law.
How The Klaxon broke the Quinlivan story on September 2.
In its statement last night, PM&C said Davis had written to Remuneration Tribunal President John Conde on Monday last week.
PM&C said Davis wrote to the Commonwealth Ombudsman that same day “confirming the outcomes of PM&C’s review”.
In its statement to The Klaxon, PM&C did not say whether all positions over the seven years to December 2 2021 had been reviewed; whether all cases of alleged illegal payments had been identified; or how many of the identified officials were still being paid for two government jobs.
PM&C said it had been provided with over 16,000 “data entries”.
“The Department of Finance provided PM&C with over 16,000 data entries on Commonwealth appointments dating back to 2015, seven of which were identified as individuals who may have held concurrent full-time and part-time positions for which remuneration was payable,” the PM&C statement says.
The Remuneration Tribunal sets the employment conditions for several hundred full-time official appointments and several hundred more part-time appointments.
PM&C did not disclose the names of the two officials whose cases it said had been “remediated”.
“One instance of overpayment identified from 2019 was remediated at that time and other another instance of overpayment has since been remediated,” the statement said.
The Jose overpayment case was “identified” in May 2020 by an unnamed whistle-blower who repeatedly pushed for action, culminating in the secret Ombudsman investigation.
The Quinlivan overpayment case was “identified” on September 3, when The Klaxon broke the story.
As head the PSR, a position she held until July, Quinlivan was responsible for policing medical practitioners who ripped off Medicare.
Jose received $41,073 in illegal payments for his job as NCC boss, across 53 payments. He has repaid none of it. Jose denies any wrongdoing and has said he was not aware the payments were illegal.
As previously revealed, PM&C, Treasury, Finance and the NCC, all went to lengths that resulted in the debt being “waived”, allowing Jose to keep the illegally paid money.
More to Come.
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