Home Affairs avoids questions until tech boss mysteriously resigns
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Home Affairs avoids questions until tech boss mysteriously resigns

Home Affairs avoided answering a series of questions about chief information officer Tim Catley until after the senior public servant left the organisation.

First assistant secretary of the Information and Technology Division at the new department, and its first-ever CIO, Mr Catley has left the mega-department after less than seven months in the role. A Department of Home Affairs spokeswoman confirmed he resigned on September 10 and will return to Sydney.

Tim Catley has left the top-ranking role at Home Affairs after less than seven months.

Tim Catley has left the top-ranking role at Home Affairs after less than seven months. Credit:Jim Rice

In May Fairfax Media revealed Mr Catley had been accused of directing staff at Transport for NSW, where he was then a senior executive, to delete emails that were subject to a freedom of information request.

A preliminary report from an investigation by the NSW Information and Privacy Commission said an executive from Transport for NSW made the direction to delete government information relevant to a request made under the state's freedom of information laws.

The report itself didn't name Mr Catley as the executive, but he was named in witness statements to the investigation.

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Mr Catley denies the allegations and has said his resignation was not related to the investigation, but for family reasons.

The Department of Home Affairs was asked a series of questions on notice in Senate estimates about Mr Catley's employment, including whether Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo and those in charge of the recruitment process were aware of the investigation at the time of Mr Catley's appointment.

Labor Senator Louise Pratt asked the questions on June 12, including whether it was appropriate for the chief information officer, who would oversee a large amount of sensitive national security information, and deal with Freedom of Information requests to be someone who had been investigated by the Information and Privacy Commission.

Senator Pratt asked if Mr Catley had in fact been cleared by the investigation. The department sent its answer to the eight questions only yesterday, after reports had emerged that Mr Catley had left the department. The answer only said, "Mr Catley is no longer employed by the Department of Home Affairs".

It's been reported that Michael Milford will move from his role as First Assistant Secretary of Home Affairs' Major Capability Division into the chief information officer role.

Home Affairs did not respond to questions about why the response was delayed and why the questions from Senator Pratt weren't addressed.

Sally Whyte is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service.