Saturday, June 11, 2011

AFP in the spotlight again

Firming up the impression of a rogue agency

AUSTRALIAN Federal Police boss Tony Negus took his secretary on a taxpayer-funded business-class trip to Singapore and India last year on official police business.

The trip to Singapore last July was to attend a meeting of Asia Pacific Group on money laundering. The pair then went on to India for the opening of the AFP's New Delhi office.

The 31-year-old Tamerra Mackell also travelled with Mr Negus on an official visit to Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia in February this year.

It is unusual for secretaries such as Ms Mackell to travel overseas for work. The executive assistant to Mr Negus' predecessor, Mick Keelty, did not often travel with him.

Mr Keelty usually travelled with a "staff officer" - a uniformed AFP officer who is a member of the Senior Executive Service, the highest ranks of the public service.

Mr Keelty's executive assistant did sometimes accompany her husband Peter McEwan, who was Mr Keelty's staff officer.

The AFP said in a statement that, up until January 2011, the commissioner did not have an executive officer or staff officer and Mr Negus had taken his executive assistant to Singapore and India to provide "an administrative support role".

Ms Mackell is a civilian employee, an unsworn AFP worker.

She joined the AFP in January 2008 as executive assistant to the manager of specialist groups and was promoted to work as the commissioner's secretary when he began in the role in September 2009.

As executive assistant to the commissioner, Ms Mackell manages the office environment and administration and liaises with other senior police, the AFP said.

Asked if Ms Mackell had any formal academic qualifications for her role as executive assistant, an AFP spokeswoman said she had completed a certificate in business administration at a business college.

Despite her lack of formal qualifications, Ms Mackell was given a promotion in January to the newly created - and more senior position - of executive officer. In her new role she is charged with delivering "high-level executive support".

The AFP said Ms Mackell's new position of executive officer was created "to provide support to" the 47-year-old commissioner, such as amending speeches when he is travelling overseas.

Lost in the reshuffle was the job of chief of staff, who had previously travelled with the commissioner....

Dr Michael Kennedy, head of the policing program at the University of Western Sydney, said there were few controls on who could accompany the federal police commissioner overseas. "The bottom line is that any federal police commissioner can sign a blank cheque. In NSW, there are so many controls on what the commissioner does that he could not take an executive assistant overseas."


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