THREE premiers, a constant reshuffle of ministers and a change of opposition leader have cost NSW taxpayers $5.9 million in staff severance payments, says the Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat.In a scathing report, Mr Achterstraat said on average one in three government staff left their job each year, and 60 per cent of them received generous termination payments.An audit found 147 media and policy advisers, assistants and chiefs of staff had been terminated from July 2006 to December 2009, with an average payout of $40,200. Another 110 resigned.Although the redundancy packages were generally larger than those for staff in other states and the Commonwealth, all but two were within the government’s guidelines for ”special temporary employees”.Mr Achterstraat was highly critical of the payouts to two senior advisers who left with a combined total of $235,000 – $177,800 more than under the guidelines.One employee, understood to be Graeme Wedderburn, a former chief of staff to former premier Nathan Rees, was terminated after working 10 months but received $139,000 rather than the standard $35,500. Mr Wedderburn’s contract stipulated that he would be paid half of his annual salary if he was dumped.The second, who worked for seven months, received $96,000, $74,300 more than the guidelines.Mr Achterstraat said the Department of Premier and Cabinet should follow its own rules when spending taxpayer dollars. “The rules are clear on severance pay. There should be no special deals,” he said.”The severance pay guidelines are a bit like the salary cap and like a salary cap they work best if everybody knows the rules and everyone sticks to them.”The report found most terminations followed the 2007 election – despite there being no change of government – the resignation of Morris Iemma in 2008 and the rolling of Nathan Rees last year.The director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Brendan O’Reilly, rejected the recommendation that severance should be paid only according to the guidelines, saying he intended to keep his right to make exemptions ”when appropriate”.Yesterday Ms Keneally said there were now no staff on a special deal. ”Nobody in my government has those sorts of arrangements,” she said.
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