Monday, September 17, 2012

$5m office facelift in NSW as 2000 jobs cut | #NSWpol

State government bankers splurged almost $5 million on an office revamp at the same time as Treasury was sharpening its axe to cut 2000 lowly paid education and health workers from the public payroll.

The ''luxury'' renovations at the NSW Treasury Corporation - known as TCorp - has ''given lie to the myth the state is broke'', unions said yesterday.

The O'Farrell government last week blamed diving revenues on its decision to cut almost $5 billion in funding from schools and hospitals and sack 1800 workers.

Documents obtained by The Sun-Herald show TCorp spent $4.43 million on a complete office overhaul, including furniture and fittings, at its offices in Governor Phillip Tower.


TCorp has a staff of just 130, making the refurbishment bill $34,000 a head. A commercial decorator told The Sun-Herald the $2200 a square metre refit qualified as a ''high-end job''.

TCorp's chief executive, Stephen Knight, and the board, led by chairman Philip Gaetjens, signed off on the contract in February.

The agency, which oversees $60 billion in government debt, has also extended its lease in the tower at the same time as the government has promised to vacate its ministerial offices in a bid to reduce the rent bill.

After The Sun-Herald provided details of the contract to the Treasurer, Mike Baird, he reacted by asking TCorp to find ways to vacate the building in a bid to recoup the millions spent on renovations.

Mr Baird spoke directly to Mr Knight, who has conceded the refit was a ''misjudgment''. He said: "I find the decision made to extend this lease and undertake this refurbishment totally unacceptable. Despite the strong performance of this organisation over the past few years, I have spoken with the CEO and he has acknowledged a misjudgment.

''Just as we are asking our state-owned corporations to look for efficiencies, this is another example of where savings could be made.

''I have asked the CEO and the TCorp board to consider all options to recoup the costs of this refurbishment and, at the very least, to ensure that the current lease will not be extended. Any new lease would involve moving to a cheaper premises and would ensure the costs of this decision are recovered.''

News of the refurbishment splurge is bound to enrage public sector workers facing redundancy.

Maurie Mulheron, the president of the NSW Teachers Federation, said: ''This gives lie to the myth that the state government is broke and cannot afford to educate our children.''

''It is extraordinary that in the light of $1.7 billion in cuts to schools that they would splash this cash around.''

The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, said the money spent on TCorp's refit could have paid the salaries of 50 teachers, 25 new science labs or 1975 new laptops for students.

''The decision to direct funding to office upgrades over schools and hospitals shows just how devoid of values and out of touch Barry O'Farrell really is,'' he said.

''He cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the state when he is cutting billions … then splashing cash on executive office upgrades.''

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