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Investigator hands down SA Health boss report

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BREAKING | A report from the independent investigator into SA Health chief executive Dr Chris McGowan has been handed to the Public Sector Commissioner – but she says her own investigation into his conduct remains ongoing.

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Dr Chris McGowan

In November last year, InDaily exclusively revealed that McGowan was still listed as the director of a private company during the first two months of his public appointment as SA Health chief executive – and that a related company began work on a $13 million contract for SA Health while he had both roles.

McGowan referred himself to the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment Erma Ranieri after InDaily made enquiries about the matter.

Ranieri later asked former Commonwealth Ombudsman, Emeritus Professor John McMillan AO, to conduct an independent investigation into McGowan’s conduct.

This morning, Ranieri told InDaily she had received a copy of the report but that her own investigation was ongoing.

“I have received a copy of the report from Professor McMillan, which I am currently considering in the context of finalising my investigation,” she said.

“Given that my investigation remains ongoing,  I do not propose to provide any further comment at this time.

“Over the past five and a half years as Commissioner for Public Sector Employment, I have advised on public service chief executive matters … This is part of my role as it is important we uphold the Code of Ethics – the foundation of our public sector’s conduct, culture and professional integrity.”

McGowan was CEO of Silver Chain Group for a decade before his appointment as head of the state’s largest government department.

Documents obtained by the Opposition and supplied to InDaily indicate that he continued to appear on company records as the sole director of its subsidiary, Silver Chain Corporate Services, until mid-July 2018 – more than two months into his role as SA Health boss.

An SA Health spokesperson said at the time that “an administrative error by Silver Chain led to a delay in changing officeholder details on a non-operational dormant subsidiary company of Silver Chain”.

“As soon as Silver Chain identified the administrative error, the directorship details were updated.

“Dr McGowan did not receive a salary or any remuneration from Silver Chain following his resignation as Chief Executive Officer…”

The spokesperson also stressed McGowan had no involvement in the negotiation or procurement process for the $13 million SA Community Care Program SA Health contract and that he had referred his conduct to Ranieri “out of an abundance of caution”.

The documents also revealed that after he joined SA Health as chief executive in May 2018, McGowan repeatedly involved himself in assessing the merits of a Silver Chair aged care program, Integrum, which he had promoted in its original Western Australian incarnation during his time as Silver Chain CEO.

Diary entries show that the SA Health chief executive attended an Integrum site visit in Western Australia in February 2019, that he asked for evaluation results concerning the program on June 11, 2019 and that he met with Wellbeing SA CEO Lyn Dean the following day to discuss the results.

Dean’s signature appears on the contract, executed less than a fortnight later, handing over $2.63 million in taxpayer funds to Silver Chain Group on behalf of the Health Minister, to implement Integrum in Adelaide.

InDaily sent a series of questions about McGowan’s involvement with Integrum, but he declined to comment.

The scope of McMillan’s investigation into McGowan’s conduct included:

An SA Health spokesperson said told InDaily this afternoon that McGowan had no comment, as he had yet to see McMillan’s report.

In July last year, McGowan told the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament that he had signed off a taxpayer-funded contract, awarded to Silver Chain Group, during his time as SA Health CEO.

But he told the same committee in October that he has nothing to do with awarding contracts to the company.

McGowan was summoned back to the committee last month, but refused to answer more than two dozen questions from committee the about his conduct, saying it would be inappropriate to comment while the investigation was ongoing.

 

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