Former public servant Jenny West told an upper house inquiry on Monday she was ‘three-quarters’ of the way through the NSW Public Service Commission’s Leadership Academy when she was made redundant.
West fronted the inquiry into the appointment of John Barilaro as senior trade and investment commissioner (STIC) to the Americas and spoke at length about her surprise at not only to the verbal offer of the STIC role being taken away but then also being made redundant from her role as deputy secretary of Investment NSW.
She said she could accept not getting the STIC role, as she believed it had become a political appointment but was ‘flabbergasted’ her current job was being terminated.
“I was [at the time] trying to get my head around why my deputy secretary role was being made redundant because I was in the middle of some very large programs of work on behalf of the people and businesses of New South Wales,” West said.
“I felt that I had a lot more to offer and a lot more work to do.”
The former public servant said she had been nominated to take part in the Leadership Academy’s Band 3 program, which she had been in the process of completing but was unable to do so owing to her redundancy.
As described on the NSW Public Service Commission’s website, the ‘Leading an Agency’ Band 3 program is ‘a distinct range of courses to strengthen your leadership and executive acumen and expand your stewardship and servant mindset’.
West agreed with statements put to her that by participating in the program she had been identified as a potential future secretary of a department.
Giving evidence about a conversation with Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown, West confirmed at one point saying: “How could he just change some things like that? Put his mates in roles to help with the election?”
It is unknown which ‘he’ West was referring to, as she said to the inquiry she could not remember.
When asked if she, too, considered the STIC role a ‘present’, West was firm that she did not.
“I have never perceived working for the people and businesses of New South Wales as a present. I feel like it’s a duty by myself as a citizen to really make a difference out there,” West emphasised.
West said she emailed secretary of the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet Michael Coutts-Trotter over both the role and whether she was being made redundant, but did not hear from him until he sent her the formal termination letter. Coutts-Trotter referred that email back to Investment NSW.
Coutts-Trotter was directed by NSW premier Dominic Perrottet to set up an inquiry separate to the upper house inquiry, with the secretary appointing former NSW public commissioner Graeme Head to conduct the inquiry.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is reportedly considering launching an investigation into Barilaro’s appointment. A spokesperson told the masthead it could neither confirm nor deny if it had commenced investigations.
If there is an investigation by ICAC, it would mark the third inquiry into Barilaro’s appointment.