An experienced public servant who lost a high paying job to a politician has demanded she give her evidence on camera so she can properly detail her ‘distress’ about the scandal.
Jenny West was told she had secured a $500,000 trade ambassador role in New York last August, but the high-flying public servant saw the job ripped away weeks later, when retiring NSW deputy premier John Barilaro changed the selection process, which eventually allowed him to claim the position for himself.
The controversial appointment is now the subject of a state parliamentary inquiry that began on Wednesday, with Mr Barilaro two days later announcing he had withdrawn from the job because the saga was a ‘distraction’ for the government.
Ms West, who was deputy secretary of Investment NSW, has confirmed she will given evidence at the hearing on July 11.
The Westpac ‘women of influence’ winner lodged a request for an on-camera hearing to tell her side of the story in person due to the ‘distress’ the job loss has caused her ‘and my family’, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Jenny West (pictured), was ‘extremely upset’ when she learnt the plum trade ambassador role she had won through an interview process was to be taken off her due to a ministerial decision that eventually led to the job being given to former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro
In the written request, Ms West pointed to the ‘short-term and long-term career implications’ she has faced as a result of the debacle as a reason to provide her account over live video.
She also asked to appear in private, signalling her evidence – which includes a 45-page dossier she sent to Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter after losing the role – will likely be damning.
Ms West’s evidence, which was initially scheduled for July 6, will be vital in determining the level of interference in the selection of the position and who was involved.
Speaking at the inquiry on Wednesday, Trade Department Secretary Amy Brown, who had to break the bad news to Ms West in September said ‘she was not pleased about the backflip on the job, leading to an ‘irreconcilable’ situation.
‘She was extremely upset about that, understandably so,’ Ms Brown said.
John Barilaro last week announced he was stepping aside from the role as the saga was a ‘distraction’ for the government
In the days after her appointment was blocked, Ms West met with Mr Coutts-Trotter, NSW’s top bureaucrat, to express her concerns about what happened, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Mr Coutts-Trotter, who is secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, was given a 45-page report by Ms West outlining her concerns over what transpired.
Ms West has now left the public service with an undisclosed payout.
The New York Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner would have capped off a CV bristling with achievement for Ms West.
She entered the NSW public service after being head of trade and investment at federal agency Austrade, where she led digital innovation efforts.
Her private sector experience included four years as the NSW/ACT regional director for Telstra, where she was in charge of 130 retail stores and oversaw the NBN rollout.
In her seven years at Westpac, she headed the migrant and expatriate banking division, and was also general manager of the Sydney CBD operations.
In 2013, she won a Westpac ‘Women of Influence’ Award for business outcomes.
Ms West is also listed as a UTS Business School Industry Advisory Board member and a governor for the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia.
Ms West, here seen addressing Indian students in her capacity as deputy secretary of Investment NSW was described as an ’eminently qualified’ candidate for the New York job
Labor’s Deputy Leader Prue Car told the parliamentary inquiry that a highly accomplished woman had been brutally passed over for a former member of the government.
‘We now know that the very eminently qualified Jenny West was dumped by this government, given a taxpayer‑funded settlement—because she was offered a job that was then taken away from her,’ Ms Car said.
As NSW trade minister, Mr Barilaro created the New York trade commissioner role in November 2020, one of five similar jobs in major capital cities across the world.
Ms Brown said Ms West was an ‘excellent candidate’ who had exceeded all the criteria to win the New York job after beating out a select shortlist of four people interviewed.
However, all appointments had to be frozen after a request on October 3 from Mr Barilaro’s office that commissioner positions be moved from being an in-house departmental decision to one requiring cabinet approval.
Mr Barilaro, who was then-NSW trade minister, intervened to change the process for hiring the state’s trade ambassador to the US and eventually claimed the job himself
Despite cabinet agreeing to draft legislation to this effect, the New York job was given without ministerial signing off, unlike other similar roles.
The job was then re-advertised in December and the process was handled by Investment NSW and a global recruiting company with Mr Barilaro being announced as the successful candidate earlier this month.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, who called the appointment an internal public service, established an independent inquiry separate to the parliamentary one into the hiring process.
Mr Barilaro retired from politics on October 4, just days after Gladys Berejiklian sensationally quit as premier after the state’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, announced it was investigating her.
He signed a three-year contract in June to take up the position of New York trade commissioner and had been due to begin the role in July.