The corporate regulator has revealed the progress towards recommendations made in Vivienne Thom’s review of the expenses scandal that led to James Shipton’s resignation, with a number still left unaddressed two months after findings were handed down.
In a recent hearing of the House economics committee, Labor MP Andrew Leigh questioned Mr Shipton and ASIC deputy chair Karen Chester around whether several of the findings from the review had been acted on, including the recommendation that Treasury “obtain legal advice about whether Mr Shipton’s conduct amounts to a breach of section 13(7) of the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct”.
ASIC was removed from the Australian Public Service Act in late 2018, but as conduct relating to the expenses occurred before this date it could still be considered a breach of the code.
Mr Shipton said he understood Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s January statement clearing him of any wrongdoing “closes the matter”, but Ms Chester clarified that Treasury had not finalised its response to the relevant recommendations in the report.
“To be clear, Treasury are yet to finalise their response to the Treasurer on the recommendations from the Thom review,” she said.
“We have a deadline we’re working towards and we will be providing our response to the Treasury secretary, but this is a matter that should be directed to [Treasury secretary] Dr Kennedy.”
Dr Leigh also pointed to recommendation 8 of the review, which stated that ASIC should develop clear threshold amounts for approved expenses, as well as requiring the endorsement of commissioners for expenses above this amount, chair approval for all expenses of commission members, and deputy chair approval for all expenses of the chair.
Ms Chester said the regulator had sought to direct all expense approval to recently appointed chief operating officer Warren Day as a more efficient alternative to the recommendation.
“It’s fair to say Dr Thom finalised her report before we had implemented some changes to our governance arrangements, including the implementation of a chief operating officer,” Ms Chester said.
“Dr Thom knew we were heading in that direction – you need to read recommendation 8 on the basis it was done before we had Mr Day in that role. It was envisaged that that’s the responsibility a chair or deputy chair would delegate to a head of office.
“It’s really our realisation of that governance arrangement where conflicts can still be managed, and it will be a matter for Dr Kennedy and ANAO to decide if how we’re dealt with it meets the spirit of what Dr Thom recommended.
“It’s not efficient for the chair and deputy chair to be signing off expenses – that’s something for the chief operating officer to do.”
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