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