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Official back at work after school transport debacle.

Official back at work after school transport bungle

Sean Nicholls, Anna Patty
May 26, 2012 Read late

A SENIOR NSW education bureaucrat blamed for the government’s bungling of the disabled students’ travel scheme has drawn full pay while on suspension and is back at work despite no disciplinary action having been taken against him.

It is understood Hugo Harmstorf, the deputy director-general, finance and infrastructure, was initially suspended without pay but the department discovered it was legally obliged to maintain his salary.

In February, it was announced Mr Harmstorf had been suspended without pay pending disciplinary action after 700 disabled children were left stranded without transport to school.

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A report by Dr Ken Boston found Mr Harmstorf and the director of shared services, Ian Anderson, had ”damaged the reputation of the Department of Education and Communities in the opinion of the transport operators, the community and the NSW government”.

The bungle put pressure on the Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, but Dr Boston’s report said the bureaucrats were guilty of ”telling the minister what they thought he wanted to hear” and recommended the director-general of education, Dr Michele Bruniges, consider disciplinary action against them.

At the time, the Opposition Leader, John Robertson, accused Mr Piccoli of making a scapegoat of Mr Harmstorf and Mr Anderson to cover the fact he failed to ask enough questions about the scheme.

A media release issued by the department said Mr Harmstorf and Mr Anderson had been ”been immediately stood down without pay from their positions until the disciplinary process under the Public Service Employment Management Act is finalised”.

But a spokesman for the department told the Herald Mr Harmstorf returned to work on May 7 following the findings of a separate investigation.

”After reviewing an independent investigation report prepared by IAB Services, the director-general considered there was nothing in that report which made it unsuitable for Mr Harmstorf to resume his duties as deputy director-general, finance and infrastructure,” the spokesman said.

”Matters involving Mr Harmstorf and Mr Anderson under the Public Sector Employment Management Act are being finalised by the director-general.”

It is understood Mr Anderson remains on suspension, also on full pay.


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