NT’s top public servant resigns suddenly, following former chief minister

by | May 17, 2022 | News, NT Politics | 0 comments

The NT’s head public servant Jodie Ryan has resigned from her position effective Monday, as the fallout from former chief minister Michael Gunner’s shock resignation last week continues.

Ms Ryan made the news public this afternoon in an email to staff, saying she was leaving “to provide the new Chief Minister an opportunity to choose her own CEO”.

Ms Ryan also acted as Cabinet secretary for the Gunner government for the last six years, working closely with Mr Gunner to implement his policies. She was also involved in some high profile controversies while in the important role.

Rumours had started on Friday night that Ms Ryan would not be in the job for much longer after Natasha Fyles was selected as Chief Minister by the left faction of Labor’s caucus, rejecting Mr Gunner and Ms Manison’s attempts to hold on to power.

It was unclear whether she was asked to resign or pushed out entirely.

She said in the email that former Department of Corporate Services chief executive Kathleen Robinson will act as chief executive of the Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet while a “full recruitment process” to find a new chief executive is underway.

Ms Ryan had been in the NT Public Service for 30 years and was formerly under-treasurer during the Giles CLP government before being promoted to chief executive of the then-Department of Chief Minister by Mr Gunner and his former chief of staff Alf Leonardi in 2016.

Ms Ryan was a controversial figure in the role. She was the only government representative on the Infrastructure Development Fund’s board, which awarded $10 million of taxpayer money to a water bottling company that went bankrupt months later and while that company owed the NT Government hundreds of thousands of dollars in back payroll taxes.

She was also wrapped up in the procurement contract scandal in the department in 2019, that saw two of her subordinates inexplicably alter scores of a procurement contract to hire a headhunting agency that ultimately recommended Jamie Chalker as police commissioner.

Ms Ryan also played a key role while under-treasurer in leasing the Darwin Port to Chinese company Landbridge for 99-years, sparking an international incident, when the President of the United States raised concerns with then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2015 about security implications of the lease.

Ms Ryan said in the letter that she was proud of her achievements over the last six years, including the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing the findings of the Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry, and the development of “our Masterbrand”.

She thanked all the “extremely intelligent, capable, caring people” she worked with over the years, particularly Andy Cowan, who acted as her deputy before being appointed as Territory Investment Commissioner last year.

“I know change is sometimes difficult, but I think this is a great opportunity for CM&C and I know you’ll all be fully supportive of Kathleen as the new CEO and continue to prove why CM&C is a great place to work, develop and contribute!” she wrote.

The move will mean the head public servant is not in the job when parliamentary Estimates hearings are held next month. It remains unclear what the Fyles Government will do about that, including if they will look at rescheduling certain departments.

Ms Ryan’s brother Andrew Kirkman is the chief executive of the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logisitics. He remains in that role.

Ms Fyles said in a statement to public servants that Ms Ryan “has my full support”.

“I gave Jodie my sincere thanks for her service and wish her all the best in the future,” she said.

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