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ACTEW boss offered to take pay cut

ACTEW managing director Mark Sullivan.

ACTEW managing director Mark Sullivan. Photo: supplied

An offer by ACTEW boss Mark Sullivan to take a pay cut following controversy over his salary was rebuffed by the Chief Minister, Mr Sullivan has said on Tuesday morning.

The managing director spoke out publicly for the first time since it was revealed that his salary was under-reported by $234,000 in ACTEW’s annual report.

Mr Sullivan said he suggested a reduced salary to the ACTEW board after Chief Minister Katy Gallagher expressed concerns about the size of his salary.

“When I discovered for the first time that the Chief Minister had concerns about my salary I, in an unsolicited fashion, put a suggestion to the Chair which was put to the Chief Minister that I should reduce my salary, and she rebuffed that,” Mr Sullivan told ABC radio.

“You can’t do more than that … it was quite surprising to have it rebutted.”

But in a spirited defence of his $855,000 pay packet, Mr Sullivan also said the Chief Minister does not have a say in his salary.

“The Chief Minister has no role in the setting of my remuneration,” he said.

“[I’m] surprised the Chief Minister has never once written to this organisation seeking clarification of my remuneration, has never once raised it at an annual general meeting.”

Mr Sullivan, who is Australia’s highest-paid water executive, described the controversy surrounding his salary as “disappointing,” but said he was not considering leaving the job.

“What more can you do than accept a job, sign a contract, have your performance reviewed quite legitimately each year by a board appointed by the government who determines my remuneration and I accept it,” he said.

“Staying on as the managing director in this spirit and environment of hostility is sometimes challenging, but I tell you it’s very reinforcing when you have the entire board state their confidence in you.”

He defended the error in reporting his salary as an honest mistake, and said it was “not a tremendously serious matter”.

“The error in disclosure makes no difference to taxpayers’ money … the money was spent, the money was accounted for, the auditors have said there’s no material error. It is an error in disclosure, it is not an error in fact.”

ACTEW is also facing scrutiny over its corporate spending after chairman John Mackay was forced to publicly defend $12,500 paid by the company, with the money going to charity, for him to act as a caddy at a golf tournament.

The Chief Minister has asked the water utility company to provide a full account of its spending on sponsorship and corporate hospitality.

ACTEW will face an Assembly committee on Thursday to answer questions about its annual report.

with Noel Towell

9 comments so far

  • And we the public put up with all of this, how pathetic.

    Tony of Kureelpa
    Date and time
    April 02, 2013, 10:26AM
    • Be a man Mr Sullivan and just give it up, in fact give it up completely as you have the ACT record of presiding over the biggest project blow out recorded.
      And if what you say about the co chief minister is correct Mr Sullivan perhaps she should have taken the offer Mr McMullin made re a Federal position because it is not the first time she has been in a similar position.

      MIKE the HAMMER
      Date and time
      April 02, 2013, 10:57AM
      • Why do we need a board at all in Government organisations, except for the convenience of politicians then being able to shift blame, as will happen in this case. Both sides of politics do it, Board positions are nothing but "jobs for the boys, and girls". These constant refrains from all levels of Government and Business about "independent" boards is disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst. "Follow the money" is the golden rule, because "He who pays the piper, calls the tune" always shows that these claims of independence are an outright lie.

        The Board and the politicians are to blame in this case, Mr Sullivan is being pilloried for earning what seems to be excessive remuneration, but the fault lies with the two shareholders and the Board.

        John Baron
        Date and time
        April 02, 2013, 11:24AM
        • It all looks rather farcical. Katy makes a public protest about Sullivan's pay in order to look like she's in control when, in fact, she's either got no power at all or, now that she's ticked the "public accountability" box, is quite happy to let the matter quietly slide into the background. This shows there's virtually no control and accountability of public finances. Is anyone on the public payroll worth $855,000? I don't think so.

          Date and time
          April 02, 2013, 11:27AM
          • Katy was OK with the $8mil windup of RAS as well RobP.

            OLD DOG
            Date and time
            April 02, 2013, 1:37PM
        • Pollies always complaining when they are missing out on something that they are not getting.

          Date and time
          April 02, 2013, 11:28AM
          • It was an an accounting error. 'the money was spent, the money accounted for' - nice one Mark. So it doesn't matter that you were grossly overpaid. How much did you offer to cut - your unnecessary/unearned bonuses?
            The board and executive at Actew should be ashamed of themselves. How arrogant was John McKay when interviewed by Ross Solly last week - I mean we mere human's do not understand that Mark does a lot of 'stuff' for the ACT. He sits on the board of ActewAGL - well as CEO of Actew I should freakin' hope so!!!!

            Date and time
            April 02, 2013, 11:39AM
            • This article makes clear that although Mr Sullivan runs a tiny water supply organisation he gets the highest pay of any water manager in the country.
              It is time to hang put the ACTEWAGL board to dry

              Date and time
              April 02, 2013, 12:07PM
              • I found Mr Sullivan's interview on 666 this morning appalling for the following reasons:
                - he says the job of the MD and the Board is to check the "systems" for the Annual Report. Bull, it is also to check the Annual Report, full stop. Every MD in the country knows the most read part of the Annual Report is the executive salaries. He should have checked.
                - he doesn't think anyone should be responsible for misreporting the MD's salary by over $200k. Bull. Someone is responsible if Mr Sullivan won't take that responsibility himself.
                - He said in the interview that Jo Laverty had no more right to ask his salary than he do of Jo's. Bull. He is the MD of a publicly owned corporation where disclosure is required. She isn't.
                - is it was not logical for Mr Sullivan to claim that the Chief Minister has no roll in setting his salary but then saying she rebuffed his offer to reduce it.

                Mr Sullivan's arrogance in having a single line CV on the ACTEW website was evident in his interview. Ridiculous to have the old MD as Chairman, cloning himself with someone from his old role, all done with the same old recruiter. The Canberra old boy network is very much alive and thriving.

                Date and time
                April 02, 2013, 3:52PM

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