11 April 2024

NSW's highest paid public servant resigns from crisis-riddled government insurer

| James Day
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Richard Harding.

Richard Harding, the CEO of NSW Government insurance agency icare, has announced his resignation. Photo: icare.

Richard Harding, the CEO of NSW Government insurance agency icare, has announced his resignation after three years working for the embattled organisation.

Mr Harding, who earned more than $1 million in 2022-23, is the highest-paid public servant in NSW.

He will step down from the roles of CEO and managing director in October, telling staff on Wednesday (10 April) of his plans to engage in more roles like his recent appointment to the board of Ansvar Australia.

When he joined icare in 2021, the agency was in a period of crisis and under intense public scrutiny following a 2020 investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald and ABC TV’s Four Corners program. The agency was revealed to have underpaid thousands of injured workers, while senior executives claimed almost $4 million in salaries and bonuses.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry prompted by the findings detailed a variety of other issues including a toxic workplace culture and claims property had been stolen from its office in Sydney’s CBD.

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Former icare general manager of compliance, fraud and corruption control Chris McCann told the Upper House inquiry around 50 thefts occurred in the six-month period following its 2016 refurbishment. Despite Mr McCann’s attempts to inform his employer about staff taking items like tables, televisions, toasters, crockery and iPads, they told him not to investigate the matter.

One member of the inquiry was Greens MP David Shoebridge, who said the organisation was “basically a department store without a checkout”.

“The fact there was no effort to crack down on these thefts once the whistle was blown speaks volumes about the fundamental problems in the organisation,” he said at the inquiry.

Prior to its election win, the NSW Labor Party demanded then treasurer Dominic Perrottet quit as members of his staff were still being paid by icare. This led to an audit by Treasury chief Mike Pratt and resignation of Mr Perrottet’s chief of staff Nigel Freitas, who took responsibility for the matter.

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Mr Harding took over the CEO role from John Nagle.

The incumbent chair thanked Mr Harding for his leadership and guidance, implementing significant reform through transformation programs that have set the organisation on a path to long-term sustainability.

“Richard’s leadership has been unwavering, with a focus on ensuring the organisation is providing the best possible outcomes for the people relying on the insurance schemes operated by icare,” said chairman John Robertson.

“icare’s new claims model has removed risk and created an environment of competition that will generate improved outcomes for injured workers and employers.

“Along with the delivery of icare’s improvement program, and strong risk and governance practices, the organisation is in a solid position to keep improving.”

icare has commenced a recruitment process for their new CEO, and will provide an update once the role has been filled.

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