Response to Graeme Head Inquiry
On 23 June 2022, I asked the Department of Premier and Cabinet to inquire into the process that was followed in relation to the employment of the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas.
The Department appointed former NSW Public Service Commissioner, Mr Graeme Head AO, to conduct the inquiry on behalf of the Secretary under section 83 of the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 (NSW) (GSE Act).
The Report has made 8 findings and 13 recommendations.
The Government supports 12 of the 13 recommendations directed to the Government in the Report, with the following key recommendations to be adopted:
- An amendment to the GSE Act to make clear that a Minister cannot direct a Secretary in the exercise of their employment functions;
- An amendment to the GSE Regulations so that the full GSE Rules-based merit process applies to the future selection of the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioners;
- Amendments to the GSE Act to legislate a Code of Ethics and Conduct for the public sector;
- A new Parliamentary Joint Committee to monitor and review the exercise of the Public Service Commissioner and the Commissioners’ functions under the GSE Act; and
- Codification of the roles and responsibilities of Secretaries.
In addition to the recommendations of the Head inquiry, and to further increase transparency, the NSW Government will:
- Make a change to the Ministerial Code of Conduct to prevent Ministers for a period of 18 months from accepting any offer of employment within an public sector agency that reported to them within the last two years of Ministerial office;
- Senior public servants who leave their employment to work in the private sector will have to seek ethics advice where that employment relates to their previous role; and
- All trade commissioner roles will be appointed through the GSE Act, consistent with the GSE processes outlined in the Head Review. They will not be statutory appointments.
The Government notes Recommendation 3, which proposed amendments to the Ministerial Code of Conduct, to prevent Ministers from seeking to influence Secretaries in relation to their employer functions. The Code already provides that:
- A Minister must not knowingly breach the law (section 3);
- Minister must not knowingly issue any direction or make any request that would require a public service agency or any other person to act contrary to the law (section 5);
- A Minister, in the exercise or performance of their official functions, must not act dishonestly, must act only in what they consider to be the public interest, and must not act improperly for their private benefit or for the private benefit of any other person (section 6).
The Government considers that these provisions, coupled with the proposed amendments to the GSE Act, will make clear that Secretaries and other Agency Heads are not subject to the direction and control of Ministers in the exercise of their employer functions.
The Government will work with the Public Service Commissioner to implement these recommendations.
The Government is committed to transparency, accountability, and acting in the best interests of the people of NSW. Maintaining an independent and apolitical public service, employed on merit, is a key foundation of our responsible government.
I thank Mr Graeme Head AO for his important and valuable work on the Inquiry.
A full copy of the Report will be available at: www.dpc.nsw.gov.au.