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Greens MLA questions ACTEW's claim pay error was 'honest mistake'

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Lisa Cox, Stephanie Anderson

Shane Rattenbury.

Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Elesa Lee

ACT Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury says he has "significant concerns" over claims by ACTEW’s board that its failure to correctly report its managing director’s $855,000 salary was an ‘‘honest mistake’’.

Mr Rattenbury said on Thursday that he could not understand how ACTEW Chairman John Mackay had understated Mark Sullivan’s pay packet by $234,000 in a 2011 letter to the company’s two shareholders, the Chief Minister and the Treasurer.

It comes as Mr Mackay again denied any dishonesty on the part of the ACTEW board, in a combative interview on local ABC radio this morning.

The Greens Minister said he also failed to see how the ACTEW board was persuaded to increase Mr Sullivan’s salary to $855,000 after independent advice that $621,000 was an appropriate figure.

In a September 2011 letter to the Government, Mr Mackay assured Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Treasurer Andrew Barr that Mr Sullivan’s pay packet was $621,000.

But the managing director was paid $855,000 that year, a figure the Chief Minister says is not appropriate to manage a government-owned water monopoly.

“Mr Mackay would have us believe that he signed a letter to ACTEW shareholders and completely forgot about a $230,000 pay rise that he and his board must have recently negotiated,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“I fail to understand how Mr Mackay simply didn’t remember that he had given the CEO Mark Sullivan a $230,000 pay rise when writing to the shareholders.”

Mr Rattenbury said failure to report the figure raised “serious concerns” as to whether ACTEW was meeting its obligations under the Territory Owned Corporations Act to provide information to shareholders and disclose remuneration to shareholders.

“This is a serious incident and gives rise to significant concerns about the current arrangements and processes within ACTEW,’’ he said.

But ACTEW chairman John MacKay vehemently dismissed claims of a cover up after the pay packet of managing director Mark Sullivan was understated by $234,000.

Speaking on ABC 666, Mr Mackay said he would be writing to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher today about the matter, which he described as a simple mistake.

“We made a mistake and it was quoted twice. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

“That was mistake. It wasn’t a conspiracy.”

Mr MacKay also denied claims that he had tried to cover up the $855,000 salary.

“If I’d been trying to hide it, I’d have done a better job than that,” he said.

Mr MacKay said he was unsure of why he didn’t tell the government when the mistake was first discovered, stating that he “should have rung some alarm bells”.

He added that the amount was justified, stating that “Mark’s salary is bulletproof”.

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