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Bernard Keane

Top bureaucrat in Barilaro saga is posted — out of public service

The bureaucrat at the centre of the appointment of John Barilaro to a NSW trade commission post in New York, secretary of the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade Amy Brown, has been sacked from the NSW public service.

Brown announced her departure overnight, saying “my tenure has come to an end”. Grilled repeatedly by a NSW upper house inquiry into Barilaro’s appointment, and the prior withdrawal of an offer of the post to successful candidate Jenny West, Brown revealed that then trade minister Stuart Ayres had repeatedly been engaged in the process involving Barilaro, despite his claims that it was conducted “at arm’s length” from him. Ayres resigned from the ministry in early August but was later cleared of breaching the ministerial code of conduct by an independent report.

Brown’s own conduct in the appointment process drew criticism when it emerged that she had withheld information from other members of the selection panel that appointed Barilaro, suggesting breaches of the NSW Code of Ethics and Conduct. The process and outcome were later criticised by other panel members.

This morning the head of the NSW public service, Michael Coutts-Trotter, released a statement that “in accordance with section 41 of the Government Sector Employment Act and in consultation with Amy Brown, I’ve decided that she will not continue to hold office as secretary of DEIT”.

Brown’s handling of the earlier stage of the process, involving Jenny West, remains something of a mystery, with West and Brown offering different recollections of the circumstances in which West was offered the job and ministers were advised she was the successful applicant, before Brown told West she would not be appointed, that she had lost her existing job, and — in an allegation rejected by Brown — that it was because the New York appointment was to be a “present” for someone.

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