Allan Takes Aim Blog

Power overload puts Actew Chair out of action

Posted on: 16 April 2013

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Power overload puts Actew Chair out of action

Recently while talking casually with Canberrans interested in good government the conversation turned to Actew and to where on the ladder of influence some Canberrans had climbed. During this conversation,  when the name John Mackay, Chairman of Actew came up in the context of recent revelations about the salary of Actew’s managing director, Mark Sullivan, someone said Mr Mackay should resign.

No doubt yesterday’s news that Mr Mackay had resigned was heard with pleasure by the person who made the suggestion. That apart, I think some of the others in the conversation might be surprised that despite Mr Sullivan’s decision to forego $140,000 in salary, he would continue as Managing Director.

During the conversation another remark made was that in some respects during Mr Mackay’s reign as Managing Director and later chairman of Actew, the corporation had acted almost like the Government’s private bank. It was said the remark was based on Actew’s sponsorship of various sporting teams, the Arboretum (a special project of the last Chief Minister) et al, while the Brumbies had benefitted from call in planning powers.

It was said these sponsorships were supporting activities the Government supported without the Government needing to provide more money.  A further comment was that as Chairman of various organisations and a paid director on the board of others with which the Government had a close association Mr Mackay had also seemed to benefit from the arrangement.

One area that also bothered some people was the closeness to the Actew Board, of political brothers in arm Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, the shareholders of Actew on behalf of the community. It was thought this closeness could pose a conflict of interest.

To avoid such a possibility a suggestion was made that shareholders’ representation should be increased to five of which two would be two non-government ACT parliamentarians and one shareholder drawn at random from the ACT’s electoral role. I do not know if the suggestion had ever been presented to the Government.

That Mr Mackay has now indicated he will also step down in December as Chancellor of The University of Canberra will be welcomed by many. I think too, that many people are waiting with interest his intentions regarding the board positions he holds in other Canberra companies and organisations.

The media has heaped paeans of praise on Mr Mackay for his great contribution to the Canberra community, a contribution that has brought him many civic rewards. On the other hand this begs the question: would his benevolence have been the same had he not been Managing Director of Actew and later its Chairman.

Regardless of the murkiness surrounding the Actew affair, the fact that it came to light should spur the Government into making sure that future appointments not only to Actew’s Board but the Boards of all Government organisations should be subject to the closest scrutiny!

Comments welcome!


6 Responses to "Power overload puts Actew Chair out of action"

Great column Don

“Please provide complete copies of remuneration and performance papers presented to the Remuneration Committee for the purposes of setting the managing director’s remuneration for the years 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12.

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