Deloitte refuses to answer questions about misuse of government information

Consultancy firm Deloitte has refused to answer questions about which department was involved in the misuse of government information by one of its employees.

Tom Imbesi

A Senate Committee on Monday heard that Deloitte took disciplinary action in relation to 121 matters in 2023, including one case involving misuse of government information.

Apart from that case, which was reported to the relevant department, only one of the other matters was reported.

Deloitte said the “inadvertent” misuse of information related to a “breach of protocols in relation to the handling of government information”.

Deloitte Chairman Tom Imbesi told the committee: “There was a core team and a broader team, with confidentiality requirements within that core team, and one individual shared information to the broader team.”

The person involved was stood down and received a formal warning.

However, witnesses refused to say which department or which contract was involved; which specific information was misused by whom, or what the consequences were, drawing a stern response from Greens Senator Barbara Pocock.

“This is one example where your entity has misused government information and you came here today… unprepared to talk about the specifics of that?” she said.

“That is one of the reasons why there is distrust about large consulting firms.”

Mr Imbesi agreed to provide the committee with more information on notice by August 7 after consulting with the department.

On Thursday, a Deloitte spokesman confirmed to Government News that in a separate case in 2017, a former Deloitte partner passed on confidential Defence information he had obtained while working for Deloitte to his new employer.

CEO paid eight times as much as PM

Deloitte also refused to provide the committee with partnership income information, citing commercial sensitivity.

Adam Powick: $3.5 million dollar man

However it was revealed CEO Adam Powick was on a “ballpark” salary of around $3.5 million a year,  while the average earning for a Deloitte partner was $500,000 to $600,000 – close to what the Prime Minister is paid.

Senator Deborah O’Neill asked Mr Powick, “at a salary of $3.5 million are you really worth seven times the salary of the Australian Prime Minister?”

“Well it’s a hard argument to prosecute,” he said. “But it’s not my position to talk about professions and different systems.” Pressed further, he later said, “no”.

The committee heard partners in the big seven consulting firms had been asked to provide income information to the committee, which is investigating integrity in the consulting sector.

The only information forthcoming was from disgraced firm PwC, which confirmed outgoing CEO Tom Seymour had received $4.6m a year, with around 80 per cent of its partners earning upwards of $500,000, and around 35 per cent on $1 million a year. 

Partners invested in ‘ponzi scheme’

Deloitte’s witnesses were also also grilled over what’s been described as a ponzi scheme set up by a former partner that ran for three years from 2019 while with the former partner was still with Deloitte.

Twelve partners, including Mr Powick, invested in the scheme which raised $60 million. Mr Powick refused to say when he first learned about the scheme, but confirmed he was still a member and had not recouped his investment.

The committee also heard that according to Deloitte’s annual ethics survey, six per cent of 13,000 employees – or 780 people – don’t feel empowered to raise concerns and six per cent feel pressured to compromise their ethics.

In the last 12 months Deloitte has accepted $720 million of public money for consultancy in the public sphere.

Its consulting business has grown from $836 million to $1.3 billion in five years, with 25 per cent coming from government contracts.

Is it time to break up the big four? Read more about today’s hearing here.

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One thought on “Deloitte refuses to answer questions about misuse of government information

  1. This has been going on alot longer than 2017. Why do you think they’re all clamping down? There’s alot of global organisations in Sydney where the Directors had their tax done by Deloitte because of the “secret knowledge” they had.

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