ABF boss clocks up seven months’ paid leave while facing probe

ABF boss clocks up seven months’ paid leave while facing probe

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, during a Senate estimates hearing at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 23 October 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Australian Border Force head Roman Quaedvlieg will on Friday clock up seven months of paid leave – funded by taxpayers – while under investigation for possible abuse of power.

Frustrations are mounting within the newly formed Home Affairs Department, as well as the corruption watchdog, about the length of time the investigation is taking.

Mr Quaedvlieg is one of the country’s most senior public servants and is paid $618,000 a year. If receiving his full salary, he has pocketed more than $360,000 while on leave to date.

A spokesman for Home Affairs, formerly the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, confirmed Mr Quaedvlieg remained on paid leave this week.

He has been out of the office since May 29, when he stepped aside pending an investigation by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity into possible abuse of power.

The commission is investigating whether Mr Quaedvlieg acted improperly by allegedly helping his girlfriend – a younger woman in the ABF – secure a job at Sydney Airport. Mr Quaedvlieg denies any wrongdoing.

At a Senate estimates hearing in October, Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo confirmed Mr Quaedvlieg was on leave, was still being paid and was subject to the ongoing integrity commission investigation. The department confirmed on Wednesday that none of those facts had changed.

Mr Pezzullo revealed he had personally approved paid “event leave” for Mr Quaedvlieg, which was similar to “miscellaneous leave”. According to the relevant enterprise agreements, paid “event leave” can be granted “where it is considered to be in the interest” of the department. Miscellaneous leave, by contrast, is usually unpaid except in certain emergencies.

Fairfax Media understands the integrity commission has furnished the Home Affairs Department with preliminary findings about Mr Quaedvlieg. But there is growing frustration at senior levels of the department about a delay of the commission’s final report. It is also understood that complexities related to the Border Force boss’s statutory position – appointed by the cabinet – have contributed to the delay.

An integrity commission spokesman said the commission was “not able to comment on matters that may be under investigation”.

Though well-resourced, the commission has had an increased workload since the Immigration Department was included in its remit two years ago. Nearly half of all its corruption investigations relate to the Immigration Department (now Home Affairs), according to its 2016-17 annual report.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton last week deflected questions about Mr Quaedvlieg’s continued absence, saying he would not pre-empt the investigation.

Adding to Mr Quaedvlieg’s woes is an internal probe by the Home Affairs Department into how his official Twitter account “liked” a pornographic video while he was on leave. Similar incidents have befallen cabinet ministers Christopher Pyne and Greg Hunt in recent months, both of which were dismissed as hacks.

In his only known public statement since the investigation became public – made to The Australian in July – Mr Quaedvlieg said he had not acted inappropriately and was “looking forward to an early exoneration and resuming my public service career”.

He also said public speculation about his actions “serves only to gratify the prurient interests of scandalmongers”, and noted Australia’s security was “threatened by splintering, but still pernicious, global ideologies that motivate individuals and groups to commit senseless acts of terrorism on innocent populations”.

Mr Quaedvlieg did not respond to Fairfax Media’s requests for comment on Wednesday.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.