All filled but one: the SA premier nears end of purge backfill

By Harley Dennett

Friday June 29, 2018

Premier Steven Marshall has wrapped up the backfill of all but one of the chief executive positions that were vacated as part of a purge of key public service individuals that were not to his new government’s liking.

Public sector employment commissioner Erma Ranieri is still acting in the key role as head of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.

A theme of the machinery of government changes has been a philosophy of each government entity reporting to only one minister. Premier Marshall says this will achieve better outcomes for South Australians and ensure greater government accountability:

“Gone are the days of blurred reporting lines and absurd scenarios where chief executives reported to up to seven ministers,” the premier said yesterday.

“I look forward to working with the new chief executives to create more jobs, lower costs for households and businesses, and deliver better government services.”

Paul Heithersay

Dr Paul Heithersay has been appointed to the role he is currently acting in, chief executive of the Department for Energy and Mining.

Heithersay has previously been chief executive of the Olympic Dam Task Force, deputy chief executive of the erstwhile Department of State Development, deputy chief executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, head of the Resources Infrastructure and Investment Task Force, and member of the Commonwealth’s Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board.

Heithersay was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2012 for his outstanding public service to the growth and development of the mineral resources sector in South Australia.

Mike Hnyda has been appointed chief executive of the Department for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

Hnyda has previously been chief executive of Investment Attraction South Australia, following a career as a senior official in the Welsh government, including as deputy director of inward investment and trade.

Michael Buchan will become interim chief executive of the South Australian Housing Authority.

Buchan has previously a senior official in SA Renewal, both as acting chief executive and general manager for property management and strategy and innovation.

Kylie Taylor has been appointed chief executive of the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing, having previously been general manager of the Office of  Office for Recreation and Sport, and director of sport and recreation development.

Taylor has represented Australia as an athlete in lacrosse and played national league basketball.

Gender balance further from fruition

The new appointments make no further progress towards gender balance in SA public service top-level of leadership positions. Although, the state’s public service is currently headed by a woman in Ranieri, who remains the state’s Commissioner for Public Sector Employment while also acting as chief executive of DPC.

Last year Ranieri announced the state had reached 47% gender balance among public service executive levels (SES)

Of the chief executives who were sacked immediately on the Marshall government’s election, two were men (Dr Don Russell of Premier and Cabinet, and Michael Deegan of Transport and Infrastrucure), and two were women (Ingrid Haythorp of Attorney General’s and Sandy Pitcher of Environment, Water and Natural Resources). Also among those removed was the deputy chief executive of Premier and Cabinet, Dr Tahnya Donaghy.

Maladminstration finding no longer bothers premier

Local and national reporters have latched on a 2015 ICAC finding of maladministration against Buchan in relation to sale of public land without a tender, known as the Gillman land deal.

Two officials had adverse findings against them. Buchan was initially the more junior of the pair, while the other, former chief executive of SA Renewal, Fred Hansen, had been sacked by then premier Jay Weatherill more than year prior to the findings of Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander.

The findings largely focused on Hansen, not Buchan, with the former described by Lander as “appeared to become increasingly subservient and suffered from a general sense of malaise” under the demanding behaviour of then Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, who was the driving force behind the Gillman land deal. Buchan became acting chief executive of SA Renewal after Hansen’s sacking.

Contrary to some of the media reporting, an ICAC inquiry cannot make a finding of guilt.

The SA premier had spoken strongly against the then Labor government that more wasn’t done to punish Buchan, who remained in the public service. Yesterday, when questioned by reporters about the promotion, Marshall demurred:

“Look, the reality is we’ve made a decision to appoint an interim head for the new authority — Michael Buchan — he’ll serve in that role. Ultimately we’re going out to the market to get the very best person for the permanent role.”

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