ACT appoints a more visibly independent public service standards commissioner

By Stephen Easton

October 25, 2017

Former Commonwealth auditor-general Ian McPhee is coming back into the Canberra public service fold as the ACT government’s next public sector standards commissioner — and unlike the current one, he won’t work in the public service at the same time.

The office was created in September last year through a public service reform process five years in the making, transforming Bronwen Overton-Clarke’s previous role as commissioner for public administration.

As well as being the current public sector standards commissioner, Overton-Clarke is also a deputy director general responsible for workforce capability and governance in the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate.

In her capacity as the standards commissioner, she is officially independent of the public service and reports directly to chief minister Andrew Barr. The chief minister said she “performed this role effectively and with the utmost integrity” and wished her well in her retirement.

The Mandarin has no reason to suggest Overton-Clarke has done anything other than a fine job of both, but some might find it confusing that a very senior public servant in the centre of government can also hold a statutory office that is meant to be independent of the public service. The commissioner oversees misconduct investigations and manages any disclosures made by public service whistleblowers.

The new appointment puts an end to that situation; we understand that being standards commissioner is a part-time job and McPhee will not be taking up a position in the public service at the same time.

“I’m confident Mr McPhee will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the role which ensures ACT public servants uphold the highest ethical standards,” said Barr in a statement.

“He has held several senior positions in the Australian Public Service including deputy secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, and auditor-general for Australia.”

McPhee starts on January 29 and in the meantime, former New South Wales public servant Laurie Glanfield is acting as the interim standards commissioner from December 2.

“Mr Glanfield is the former Director-General NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice for over 20 years until 2013 and has occasionally consulted to the Government at very senior levels,” said Barr.

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