ACT Auditor-General Maxine Cooper has recommended the ACT Government develop a series of guidelines for significant appointments following her office’s review of the appointment of former Canberra Liberals MLA Brendan Smyth to the new position of Commissioner for International Engagement earlier this year.
Dr Cooper says such guidelines would “provide general principles for appointments; outline considerations for selecting the method of appointment to be applied, e.g. direct appointment or consideration of a field of qualified candidates; specify reporting obligations for the appointee e.g. are they to publicly report on their work (e.g. in an annual report) and outline requirements for documentation (full documentation is strongly recommended)”.
Mr Smyth was appointed to the five-year, $300,000 a year role in July, days after the Government announced it was seeking an executive to fill it and weeks before the ACT election. The Canberra Liberals veteran had been his party’s most experienced Legislative Assembly representative and was Shadow Treasurer.
The Auditor-General’s review report on Commissioner for International Engagement – position creation and appointment process has today been presented to the Speaker for tabling in the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Dr Cooper said the creation of the position of Commissioner for International Engagement and executive appointment of Mr Smyth had been largely at the discretion of the Chief Minister.
“While this was consistent with general powers attributed to the Executive under the Australian Capital Territory (Self?government) Act 1988 there are no prescribed processes or procedures for such appointments,” she said.
“While some aspects of the process are well documented there is little documentation to indicate how potential candidates were to be identified, what skills, experience or qualifications were desirable, or how candidates were to be assessed.
“An open selection process was not used and the now Commissioner was approached as the sole candidate.”
A statement from the Auditor-General’s office said the review provided a more limited assurance than a performance audit, but it did
“promote public accountability in the public administration of the Territory”.