Damning court appraisal of CSIRO decision process

Posted on April 12, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This is certainly not a unique situation.

In a significant blow, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal made a damning assessment of the internal workings of the national science organisation and criticised two senior executives for giving unreliable evidence in court. One of those men is group executive Calum Drummond, whose position sits one rung below CSIRO’s chief executive.

But despite the tribunal’s dramatic castigation of the organisation, its boss, Megan Clark, told a Senate estimates committee in February there would be no internal investigation of the matter, or any disciplinary action taken against the two senior staff.

CSIRO’s treatment of Martin Williams, a successful former business manager, may not have been unique.

An investigation by Fairfax Media has found that in some sections of the organisation, bullying is rife. In February, the CSIRO announced an independent inquiry would review claims of bullying and harassment, chaired by the former Commonwealth ombudsmen Dennis Pearce.

In the case of Mr Williams, whose job ”was to keep scientists out of jail” by ensuring contracts were legally vetted, things began to unravel in mid-2008 when the CSIRO division he worked for merged with two others and he found himself without a position.

But instead of following normal procedures to redeploy Mr Williams – a deputy of the former textile and fibre technology division who brought in more than $53 million of research funding over a decade – senior staff gave him conflicting advice, disregarded company policy and convened ”sham” selection panels, the tribunal heard.

In one instance, a senior manager, Damien Thomas, sent an email to Mr Williams that the court’s deputy president, James Constance, concluded was ”deliberately false”.

The affair left Mr Williams with a severe mental illness and unable to work. ”The bullying completely destroyed my health,” he said.

In a 10-day hearing in 2012, Mr Williams’ case against the Commonwealth’s workplace insurer, Comcare, exposed CSIRO’s woeful redundancy process, where staff were appointed without proper selection processes. Mr Constance found the ”inconsistent and at times ill-considered” advice given to Mr Williams by senior staff a significant contributor to his illness, although he made no findings on the panel selection process.

”I am satisfied that the conflicting advice was a result of insufficient care being taken in the management of Mr Williams’ situation or of a deliberate intention to mislead Mr Williams,” the magistrate found.

He also found Calum Drummond, the former head of the merged division, now the group executive of manufacturing, materials and minerals, an unreliable witness.

Despite the tribunal ruling in Mr Williams’ favour in December, it took the CSIRO four months to pay the business manager his entitlements.

A spokesman for the CSIRO, Huw Morgan, said the tribunal’s findings related to the witnesses’ poor memory of the events and were not a reflection of their character or professional conduct.

Mr Williams, who has not been able to work since September 2008, said that in the past decade CSIRO had transformed into a ruthlessly competitive organisation because of unrealistic pressure to increase its external funding. ”CSIRO used to be a very benevolent organisation. If people were sick they were looked after, people were treated in a really decent and respected way,” he said.”I got nothing. I got worse than nothing.”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/damning-court-appraisal-of-csiro-decision-process-20130412-2hr28.html#ixzz2QG065SaK

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One Response to “Damning court appraisal of CSIRO decision process”

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It looks like there needs to be a thorough investigation of the management practices of the CSIRO. These reports are shameful and highly alarming.

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