31/07/2019 - 14:43

Treasury bosses extend reach into utilities

31/07/2019 - 14:43

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Deputy under-treasurer Michael Court has joined the board of Horizon Power, the latest in a string of moves to appoint government employees to directorships at energy utilities.

Treasury bosses extend reach into utilities
Horizon Power provides electricity in regional areas. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Deputy under-treasurer Michael Court has joined the board of Horizon Power, the latest in a string of moves to appoint government employees to directorships at energy utilities.

Mr Court was announced as a non-executive director at Horizon yesterday, with his term to end in November 2021.

He has served as deputy under-treasurer since 2014, after five years as executive director of the Department of Treasury’s Economic Business Unit.

In June, Treasury executive director Richard Watson was appointed to the board of generator and retailer Synergy.

The Cambridge University graduate was selected for a two-year term.

Mr Watson also serves as a director of Gold Corporation, also a government enterprise.

At Synergy, Mr Watson joined former Woodside Petroleum executive director Robert Cole, past Alcoa executive Kim Horne, and Craig Mostyn Group director Rob Bransby, among others, on the board.

On Synergy’s website, he is listed as an independent, non-executive director.

The state government is Synergy’s sole shareholder. 

A third move was in May, when senior Public Utilities Office representative Kathryn Barrie was chosen for a directorship at Western Power.

Ms Barrie has had nearly two decades of experience in the energy and education sectors, including as chief of staff to former state minister Peter Collier.

Energy Minister Bill Johnston said the three appointees were well qualified for the roles.

Michael Court, Kathryn Barrie and Richard Watson were appointed as they’re highly qualified, with skills and experience that will benefit their respective boards,” he said. 

“While experience working in the private sector is not an essential criterion for appointment to these boards, other board members at Synergy, Western Power and Horizon Power have experience working in the private sector. 

“Having professional staff from the Department of Treasury on the boards will improve their functioning and increase the coordination with Treasury.” 

The news comes nearly 18 months after the Langoulant review called for a major rethink of the relationship between Treasury and government trading enterprises.

“The process for appointing board directors must be reviewed so that the composition and structure of the boards of government trading enterprises are the best fit for the enterprise,” the report said. 

“The chair must be consulted in the appointment process and cabinet should review its practices to ensure transparency on selection and appointment processes.

“It should be mandatory for board members to have knowledge of the processes and workings of state government.

“Treasury must be required to undertake an enhanced monitoring role over the government trading enterprises and must be resourced adequately by the government trading enterprises to undertake this role.”

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