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Restructure at SA Premier and Cabinet executives 11 execs sacked

South Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet is undergoing a major restructure, with 11 executives — around a quarter of the total — being shown the door in dramatic fashion on Thursday.

In what one source described as a settling of scores with those associated with the previous chief executive, at least one was escorted from the building without time to clear his desk.

The changes are effective immediately. It is understood redeployments will be ongoing for several weeks and some staff are likely to be offered redundancy packages.

The changes will help “simplify process and improve work practices” and “ensure that DPC is best placed to excel in supporting the priorities of the government on behalf of the people of South Australia”, department chief executive Kym Winter-Dewhirst told staff in an email yesterday. He added:

“There would be further reforms to the management structure to support DPC’s transition to a more streamlined and focused organisation and to align with the Senior Leadership Team.”

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Meetings at the department will be taking place over the next few weeks to further discuss the changes.

Among the reforms is the dissolution of the Business and International Development division, whose functions will be spread across other areas.

There will also be an “alignment of services” between DPC Corporate Services and the Government Services Group. The executive directors of both areas have been moved on, and it appears their substantive functions have been placed under the aegis of the Services and Intergovernmental Relations branch.

Kym Winter-Dewhirst
Kym Winter-Dewhirst

Winter-Dewhirst, former vice-president of coal at BHP Billiton and chief of staff to former Labor environment minister John Hill, was announced in September as a replacement for then-department chief Jim Hallion, who has taken up the role of state co-ordinator-general.

The chief executive told staff a new executive committee would meet for the first time next week “with a focus on business planning, delivery measurement and reporting, as well as embedding our values”. Two women, Tahnya Donaghy and Ingrid Haythorpe, have been appointed deputy chief executives.

The members of of the so-called “ExCo” are:

  • Kym Winter-Dewhirst — chief executive
  • Tahnya Donaghy — deputy chief executive, Premier’s Policy and Strategy Group
  • Ingrid Haythorpe — deputy chief executive, Services and Intergovernmental Relations
  • Jeremi Moule — executive director, Strategic Engagement and Communications Division
  • Carolyn Lee — director, Office of the Chief Executive
  • Adam Kilvert — acting executive director, Cabinet Office
  • Rik Morris — executive director, Implementation and Delivery
  • Stuart Hocking — executive director, Economic and Commercial
  • Phil McMahon — chief operating officer, Services
  • Steven Woolhouse — acting chief finance officer.

Adjustments to organisational structure announced in the email include:

  • An alignment of services provided by DPC Corporate Services and Government Services Group, resulting in new management arrangements, a reduced number of executive positions and a shared focus on the priorities of the department;
  • The movement of functions from the Business and International Development Division to other areas, resulting in a reduced number of executive positions;
  • The appointment of a director of digital government following the reshaping of the Office of the Chief Information Officer;
  • A realignment of portfolios and reduced number of executive positions in the new Policy and Strategy Group;
  • A realignment of some functions from DPC Corporate Services to the Office of the Chief Executive;
  • The establishment of a Reform Team.

Winter-Dewhirst urged staff to get on with the job of implementing the changes to maintain momentum:

“As you would appreciate, these changes have a direct impact on several existing executives, some of whom are departing DPC. I would like to thank those who are leaving for their service and contributions to this agency.

“All of the changes are effective immediately and implementing them quickly and in accordance with employment obligations will ensure the momentum of reform continues.

“I would ask that we all be mindful of our colleagues who are working through changes, while also focusing on their primary responsibilities.”

A source said there were no indications given of further redundancies, though the possibility of more movement was left open.

Staff were reportedly disquieted by the manner in which some of the executives were terminated.

Though it is not unprecedented for a new chief to rearrange a department, the source felt the process was unnecessarily brutal, with at least one marched from the building “like a criminal about to confront the gallows”.

The Mandarin has sought comment from Premier Jay Weatherill.

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He's previously written for The Guardian and Crikey and holds a masters in international relations.