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The third chief executive of a controversial rail corporation in just over 14 months is paid $575,000 a year, it was revealed at an inquiry on Friday as NSW public servants came under pressure to explain the rationale for the entity.
Under questioning on the first day of a parliamentary inquiry, the new chief of the Transport Asset Holding Entity Benedicte Colin revealed she is paid about the equivalent of the NSW Treasury secretary’s salary.
She began as TAHE’s permanent chief executive last month, replacing David Jurd who had been interim CEO since April. The state-owned corporation, which has just 20 staff, is under serious scrutiny from both the inquiry and the NSW Auditor-General who is conducting two separate reviews.
About $40 billion of rail assets including trains are owned by the government’s Transport Asset Holding Entity.CREDIT:RHETT WYMAN
Labor tabled documents to the inquiry showing that Mr Jurd was paid “towards the maximum end” of the pay scale proposed in a report by adviser Mercer due to the short-term nature of his role, while Ms Colin was expected to receive a lower salary as his permanent replacement.
The government had previously refused to reveal what the TAHE chief executives were paid, saying it would be disclosed in the corporation’s annual report later this year.
Ms Colin, a former boss of public transport group Keolis Downer, was approached for the role at TAHE in about February this year, shortly before its inaugural CEO Anne Hayes took planned sick leave.
The revolving door of CEOs at TAHE since July last year has raised questions about its future, as internal documents have shown the government has considered winding up the entity which owns nearly $40 billion of the state’s trains, stations and other rail assets.
A Herald investigation revealed in June that TAHE was set up in 2015 to enable the government to hide the costs of the rail system by shifting billions of dollars of expenses off the books and into the state-owned corporation.
A trove of confidential documents has previously revealed that NSW Treasury pressured accounting giant KPMG to delete or amend aspects of a report commissioned by Transport for NSW last year that found the TAHE could end up costing the state’s coffers more than it saved.
Under questioning at the inquiry, Treasury executive director Cassandra Wilkinson said she had requested that “errors” relating to fiscal and economic matters in the KPMG report commissioned by the transport agency be corrected.
Asked whether it had led to conflict between Treasury and the transport agency, Ms Wilkinson responded: “We’re public servants – we don’t have fights, but we do have disagreements.”
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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