Getting Greched

Re the Utegate farce: the Auditor-General reported on Treasury’s role and its senior policy wonk & leak Gollum Grechen, uncovering shortfalls in departmental security procedures. Apparently GG’s failing physical and mental health could have been detected by an expired national security clearance (Verona Burgess, AFR August 07). Designated second-top level as ‘secret’, it required the return of a ‘vetting pack’, which GG failed to do for almost a year.

Now, the clever tools of trade used by authors of this ‘pack’, no doubt organisational psychologists, are not to be coughed at, but the thought of a subversive inside agent possiby falsifying his return does exercise the imagination.  This ‘negative vetting’ checks honesty, trustworthiness, maturity, tolerance, loyalty and vulnerabilities in relation to external loyalties, influences and associations; personal relationships and conduct; financial considerations, alcohol and drug usage; criminal history and conduct; security attitudes and violations; and mental health disorders.

Imagine this comprehensive aid to organisational fitness applied to honourable members of our houses of parliament! The colour and character of our legislatures would be irrevocably changed and scary: politicians who are honest, trustworthy, mature and tolerant, not to mention invulnerable to external influences or drug & alcohol usage. The mind boggles!

The A-G’s report also found that Treasury basically mismanaged implementation of the Ozcar $2 billion bail out of car dealers, through poor handling of financial advisers, contracting and documentation. Naturally the government preferred to focus on the opposition and its leader, rather than Treasury’s failings, and the media meekly followed that lead. Let’s hope Treasury secretary Ken Henry applies more diligence to his review of the country’s taxation system.

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