Ex-man­ag­ing di­rec­tor de­fends his record

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION -

I would like to cor­rect a few points raised in me­dia ar­ti­cles re­gard­ing my re­cent depar­ture as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Goul­burnMur­ray Wa­ter.

Sadly, much of the com­men­tary was clearly bi­ased, sen­sa­tion­alised and ig­nored the facts.

First it would have been much fairer to pro­vide some per­spec­tive: Goul­burn-Mur­ray Wa­ter is Aus­tralia’s largest ru­ral wa­ter cor­po­ra­tion and op­er­ates Aus­tralia’s largest ir­ri­ga­tion net­work.

It has 21 000 cus­tomers and about 800 staff.

When I was asked to take over the helm it was plain to all par­ties that the cor­po­ra­tion was fac­ing a mas­sive fight for its sur­vival.

There have now been five dif­fer­ent chairs and seven man­ag­ing di­rec­tors since 2012.

While man­age­ment is re­peat­edly held up for ridicule, the sys­tem driv­ing this re­mains un­ques­tioned.

The great pri­or­ity for me when first ap­pointed was to con­front head-on and with­out de­lay the se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial chal­lenges fac­ing G-MW.

Through­out this whole process there has not been any sug­ges­tion that I did not ap­proach this con­sid­er­able task with any­thing but great dili­gence.

At the time of my ap­point­ment, I resided in Melbourne with my fam­ily.

The $20 000 re­lo­ca­tion ex­pense of­fer was not pro­posed by me nor was it ever my pref­er­ence.

How­ever, I was en­ti­tled un­der my con­tract to spend it on estab­lish­ment of my north­ern Vic­to­rian res­i­dence in­clud­ing its fit-out.

My ac­cep­tance of the chair’s of­fer and this struc­ture saved the cor­po­ra­tion and its cus­tomers some $70 000 over five years.

In the pri­vate sec­tor — where I’m widely ex­pe­ri­enced — salary sac­ri­fice strate­gies, which meet tax of­fice guide­lines, are ac­cepted prac­tice and com­mon­place, mo­tor ve­hi­cles be­ing typ­i­cal. A salary sac­ri­fice liv­ing-away-from-home al­lowance to­gether with the re­lo­ca­tion ex­pense al­lowance meant I had a rea­son­able ar­range­ment cov­er­ing the costs to es­tab­lish in the re­gion.

I note these ar­range­ments are noth­ing new and also ex­ist in the wa­ter in­dus­try.

How­ever, the om­buds­man and so the min­is­ter sub­se­quently deemed this was not ap­pro­pri­ate for a statu­tory au­thor­ity, de­spite other cor­po­ra­tions of­fer­ing these ar­range­ments, and de­cided that I should de­part G-MW along with the for­mer chair.

Ex­e­cut­ing the sta­bil­i­sa­tion plan for G-MW re­quired li­ais­ing with an enor­mous num­ber of stake­hold­ers, cus­tomers, man­age­ment and staff.

Host­ing meet­ings, both for­mal and in­for­mal was very de­mand­ing — though in­valu­able in fa­cil­i­tat­ing dis­cus­sion, forg­ing so­lu­tions and main­tain­ing morale in a time of great change.

In stark con­trast to the im­pres­sion given by some re­ports, this was ac­com­plished at very mod­est ex­pense with lunches and break­fast barely $10 per head and din­ners $60 per head.

All ex­pense claims were workre­lated, in ac­cor­dance with my con­tract, and there­fore rightly ap­proved by the chair with proper tax re­ceipts for all claims pro­vided, as re­ported in Coun­try News.

In ac­cor­dance with re­cent man­ag­ing di­rec­tor prac­tice, I ap­proved or claimed al­co­hol for oc­ca­sions such as board din­ners, the oc­ca­sional staff func­tion or man­ag­ing di­rec­tor-hosted din­ners — this would to­tal an av­er­age two to three stan­dard drinks per head.

Hardly the sala­cious ‘‘boun­ti­ful booze’’ glee­fully and sen­sa­tion­ally re­ported by some other me­dia.

Such un­bal­anced and mis­re­port­ing has not only cast me in an un­fair and dam­ag­ing light, it has over­shad­owed the great strides that I have made in tack­ling G-MW’s chal­lenges, look­ing af­ter G-MW staff, help­ing to se­cure hun­dreds of Vic­to­rian jobs and de­liv­er­ing a sus­tain­able fu­ture that is af­ford­able to the cus­tomers of the na­tion’s largest ir­ri­ga­tion net­work.

— Pat Len­non for­mer man­ag­ing di­rec­tor

For­mer Goul­burn-Mur­ray Wa­ter man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Pat Len­non.

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