NSW Premier’s Office appoints ‘independent expert’ to lead investigation into John Barilaro’s US business jobs

A former New South Wales public commissioner will lead the prime minister’s inquiry into the appointment of John Barilaro as US trade commissioner.

Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet announced on Thursday that he was commissioning his own review, handing the task to Secretary to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office, Michael Coutts-Trotter.

It comes as controversy grows over how the former vice premier and Nationals leader landed the plum job with a salary package exceeding $500,000.

In a statement today, it was announced that Graeme Head, who was Commissioner of the NSW Civil Service Commission for six years, would start the review ‘immediately’.

“To ensure the utmost independence and public confidence in the process, Mr. Coutts-Trotter has decided to appoint an independent expert to assist the department with this investigation,” the statement said.

“Mr. Graeme Head will conduct the investigation on behalf of Mr. Coutts-Trotter and report to the department.”

Mr. Head is currently a partner at EY Port Jackson Partners.(YouTube: NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission)

Mr. Head, who is currently a partner at EY Port Jackson Partners, also has extensive experience in public administration and policy, including heading the NDIS Quality And Safeguards Commission.

It will examine the hiring process, including the mechanisms in place to manage “real and perceived conflicts of interest”.

A separate two-hour parliamentary public hearing into the matter will begin on Wednesday with just one witness – Investment NSW chief executive Amy Brown.

Barilaro’s appointment as senior trade and investment commissioner for the Americas was announced a week ago, in what the government called a “rigorous search for global talent” by a recruitment company.

Since then, it has emerged that a recruitment round has identified two highly rated candidates with Investment NSW almost ready to publicly announce the successful candidate.

Those leaked emails went so far as to name Jenny West, a senior bureaucrat at Investment NSW, as the successful candidate.

The review will look at the employment process, which cost more than $100,000 on recruiting research before it was scrapped.

Mr Barilaro resigned from his political role a day after the decision was made to open the role to ministerial officers.

Opposition Leader Chris Minns called the state government ‘reckless spenders’, saying the premier needed to show the people of New South Wales that he genuinely cared.

a man standing and looking
Mr Minns says the Government were reckless spenders.(ABC News)

He also said the prime minister’s assurances were not enough in the face of so many unanswered questions.

“We were initially told there was an independent process, now we know it was a ministerial appointment,” Mr Minns said.

“We were told that the cabinet could not review these positions, we now know that several appointments, in fact, went to the cabinet.

“We were told it was an international search, we now know it was in fact cancelled.

“And we also know that Mr. Barilaro resigned on October 4. And someone else was appointed to this position in August, fired in September, Mr. Barilaro resigns in October.”

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