Opening statement to the Inquiry into management and assurance of integrity by consulting services

9 February 2024

Thank you Chair and can I acknowledge the important work of this Committee and thank you for inviting us to appear.

I am John Mullen, the independent Chair of the Board of Scyne Advisory. Joining me today is fellow independent Scyne non-executive director the Honourable Andrew Greenwood, Richard Gwilym, our acting CEO, Sarah Niederle, our Chief Risk Officer and Kate Evans, our People Leader.

Scyne Advisory was formally launched in November last year.

We have new owners, a new structure and governance, and a new approach to the market. We have also instituted a new ethical framework the core of which is a code of conduct based on that of the Australian Public Service.  

I joined as the independent Chairman of Scyne in November. In the short time since I’ve been overwhelmed by the sense and clarity of purpose in the organisation. From the Board down, there’s a commitment to embedding the lessons from the destructive breaches of trust that occurred at PwC.

In its interim report, this committee highlighted the inherent conflicts in a consulting firm advising both the Government and the private sector on the same subject matter.

This was also a foundation principle of Scyne.

From the very beginning of our discussions on separating the business, we committed to serving only the public sector and public purpose organisations, like not-for-profits.

This clearly extinguishes the unavoidable conflicts, and dilemmas, of working for both the public and private sector.  

At the moment, Scyne is in a category of its own in being able to say to Government we are unconflicted with the private sector.

We also believe this specialised approach delivers better advice for our clients.

Our people concentrate on supporting governments and their increasingly complex policy challenges.  We are equally clear that our role is to support the public service over the long-term, not replace it.

We started from scratch and designed the structure to support these goals.  Scyne is now established as an ASIC-registered company. We have implemented a public company standard of governance and control, based on the ASX corporate governance principles.

This includes a Board of Directors, with myself as an independent Chair, Mr Greenwood as an independent non-executive director and one further non-executive director to join in the near future.

There are also two representatives of Allegro Funds, our majority shareholder, on the board and a director representing our employees, Jane Quodling, who’s a senior executive at Scyne, but not on the leadership team.

As Chair, I bring substantial experience of public company governance as both a public company CEO, and more recently as a Board Chair, including at Telstra, Brambles and Treasury Wine Estates.

Mr Greenwood brings broad experience, from serving as a Managing Partner of the leading law firm Minter Ellison, sitting as a director of government-owned enterprises in Queensland and, certainly not least, presiding for 17 years as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia.

Mr Greenwood also chairs a Scyne Board sub-committee on Probity, Conflicts and Ethics, which has oversight and authority on all conflict or ethical matters.  

Our expectations of all employees are explained simply in our code of conduct, which is based on that of the Australian Public Service. Scyne’s leadership team, led by Mr Gwilym, has also engaged with the employees to develop a set of organisational values, which enshrine their commitment to ethical behaviour and serving our clients faithfully.  

Prior to our separation, Mr Greenwood also conducted an investigatory review of governance and probity for the business.

The review provided an authoritative assurance that no partner or employee implicated in PwC’s tax confidentiality matters, or other matters that raised questions of ethical judgement, would join Scyne.

Mr Greenwood shared his work on the review with the Department of Finance, as part of its process in approving Scyne as a supplier to the Commonwealth.

As part of this approval, Scyne committed to meeting on a monthly basis with the Department, to provide assurance of our practices. We appreciate the opportunity to provide clarity and transparency on our approach.

We have had three of these meetings so far with a forward plan in diaries to continue monthly meetings.

We acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to do to establish a strong basis of trust and confidence but would hope we can demonstrate we have the right fundamentals in place to achieve this.

We certainly recognise it is a privilege to support the public service.

We welcome questions from the committee.