Renewal SA chief executive John Hanlon has not had his contract renewed after a mysterious 10 months away from his role.
Hanlon and one other executive went on leave in September without public explanation, but last week Planning Minister Stephan Knoll told a budget estimates hearing that Hanlon’s term of employment had expired and would not be renewed.
The Labor-appointed executive oversaw government land and building projects.
Knoll said Mark Devine — who has acted in the role since October — would fill in until a permanent appointment is made.
Opposition infrastructure spokesman Tom Koutsantonis questioned Knoll as to whether Hanlon had been paid his $395,000 salary while on holiday.
“While we’re here in estimates, my office has received three phone calls from people purporting to be from Renewal SA to tell my office that Mr Hanlon was on full pay while on leave. Is that true?” Koutsantonis asked.
“In any other profession in the world, if law enforcement officers attend and an employee is the subject of an investigation, most of those people would be terminated. You chose not to terminate Mr Hanlon; you put him on leave with full pay. I am asking you: under what provision in his contract was he allowed to take leave—not annual leave, not long service leave? He was sent home on full pay. What provision of his contract gave you the legal authority to do that?”
Knoll said the SA government had complied with Hanlon’s contract, but did not confirm whether Hanlon was paid.
“I can only confirm that Mr Hanlon was on leave,” Knoll repeatedly said.
Last year, Koutsantonis had questioned Knoll over why Hanlon and Georgina Vasilevski — Renewal SA’s general manager of People & Place Management — had taken leave, which Knoll had also chosen to leave unanswered. Vasilevski was unnamed at the time.
The debacle caused Attorney-General Vickie Chapman to release a statement saying she had spoken to the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Bruce Lander, about addressing the matter.
Shortly after the statement was released, Chapman’s office told media outlets it was not suitable for publication, according to InDaily.
Lander told InDaily that he was not planning on making a public comment on the matter.
“I was not intending to make a statement but in light of the Attorney’s statement I was of the view that I should state my position and authorise the publication of the Attorney’s public statement,” he said.
Lander did not say whether Chapman had breached the law by distributing her statement to media. In SA, corruption investigations are strictly confidential.
“The ICAC Act is designed in such a way that a person [who is] the subject of a corruption investigation ought not suffer reputational harm until such time the person is charged,” Lander said in his statement authorising media to publish Chapman’s statement.
“The very purpose of an investigation is to collect evidence. The fact of an investigation is not proof that corruption has occurred. Corruption investigations must be conducted in private. I think that is appropriate.”
Hanlon replaced Fred Hansen as chief executive in 2014. He had previously worked at the Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure.