Rarely, if ever, has there been an Australian public servant who was so far beyond any threshold of acceptable bureaucratic behaviour as Godwin Grech.

There have been leakers, of course, both to the press and the Opposition (notwithstanding the old bureaucrat’s rule of thumb that you never leak to the Opposition, only to the media). There have been public servants who talked freely and in detail about confidential issues with non-APS people. There have even been public servants who thought they knew a thing or two about politics.

But Grech was so far beyond the red line as to put him in a world of his own.

The more one reads his statement to the Australian National Audit Office, the more astonished one becomes. Coupled with his revelations to The Australian about his dealings with the Opposition and the documents Malcolm Turnbull released yesterday, we can form an altogether different, and shocking, picture of a public servant who had gone rogue in a big way.

Grech has maintained he was just an overworked public servant trying to get a valuable policy up and running for the good of Australia, who found himself misused by an Opposition desperate to score points off the Government.

But the material released yesterday, and the inconsistency of his own statements, shows a different Godwin Grech — a man apparently determined to wreck the program he was implementing, and happy to cooperate closely with the Opposition to do so.

The sheer enormity of a bureaucrat wording up the Opposition on what to ask at Estimates is staggering. I can only think of one previous instance that has been made public, and it didn’t involve providing actual questions. Public servants take pride in being as unhelpful as possible at Estimates. I know of a current senior public servant who is an active and dedicated ALP member, who enjoyed nothing more than running rings around Labor senators at Estimates when they were in Opposition. It’s part of the bureaucratic craft.

But the array of questions Grech served up to Eric Abetz prior to Estimates hearings on 4 June only mention John Grant once. The bulk of Grech’s suggestions relate to the problems of the program — a peculiar thing for a man allegedly determined to get the program up and running at all costs.

“How many car dealers have received assistance from the OzCar SPV that the PM and Treasurer so boastfully launched 6 months ago?” Answer: “None.”

“Is it not the case that for OzCar to be viable, it needs to have finance providers sign up to participate? How many financiers have signed up?” Answer: “Yes; OzCar needs active finance providers to work. A major problems is that no finance companies … have actually signed up despite saying that they would. This is a major flaw that Swan and Rudd don’t understand.”

On and on Grech goes. OzCar will lose money. The purpose of OzCar has fundamentally changed. “Rudd and Swan don’t understand the drivers.” (financial drivers, that is, not car drivers)

Grech couldn’t possibly have thought this was contributing to the chances of passage of the OzCar bill — which the Opposition had already indicated it would support. It looks a lot more like deliberate sabotage.

And Grech’s emailed advice to Turnbull is full of political tips, urging him to “dare” Swan to release material. “Swan is more exposed than Rudd.” “Perhaps we should talk to sort out next steps.” He later provides Question Time suggestions for Turnbull.

Grech clearly thought he knew a thing or two about political strategy. In his statement to the ANAO he recounts how on 7 May he met the Prime Minister and a number of other people and told Rudd how helping out the unnamed and apparently suicidal “Dealer 7” would “present you, Prime Minister, with a good public relations opportunity.” No one allegedly involved in the discussion can remember that taking place except Grech, which gives a Walter Mitty-like aspect to his statement. But one of the first rules public servants learn is to leave politics to politicians and their staffers, who do it for a living.

Another thing public servants learn is not to discuss your work outside the office if it is confidential. Yet Grech almost boasts to the ANAO of his “roadtesting” policy issues with former public servants, who formed a sort of miniature policy forum for Grech as he worked in Treasury on the Government’s response to the economic crisis last year.

Treasury is conducting an investigation into whether Grech breached the Public Service Code of Conduct. The normal process is for the department’s corporate area to conduct an investigation and interview the officer concerned, and then another officer who has no relationship with the person concerned is tasked with determining whether breaches have occurred, with advice from the departmental legal area. Given the profile and gravity of the possible breaches, however, Treasury might opt for a more formal and legalistic process.

Clearly Grech’s state of mind at the time will be relevant. Treasury claims it offered Grech assistance and he assured them everything was fine. In fact, Grech might have been in that terrible zone where getting extra staff would simply have slowed things down because the time needed to get them across issues and produce work of the required standard was greater than it would have taken Grech, working alone, to do it.

If he indeed wanted to sabotage OzCar, it may have been because he had been driven to exhaustion and beyond by the task of implementing it, and couldn’t see any way out. For a man of such obviously strong sense of duty as Grech, simply walking away, as many of us might have done, may not have been an option, but bringing it down from within may have seemed, as he worked yet another 14 hour day, horribly appealing.

There will be a few public servants in Canberra, and not just those labouring under 24/Kevin, who know from personal experience what a dark place Grech was in.

And when he was asked to look after John Grant, some provincial car dealer who boasted of his friendship with the Prime Minister, Grech may, understandably, have figured that he had several million better things to do. At that point he might have thought something like “I’ll give you a connection with the Prime Minister.”

What is most remarkable, however, is how Grech, a man apparently in regular contact with the Opposition and given to discussing confidential policy matters with non-public servants, a man who was struggling with appalling health problems, was allowed to operate at the closest proximity to power. Treasury head Ken Henry has questions to answer on this score, and not just from an angry Prime Minister, but from anyone concerned about Public Service probity. Grech is a disaster for the Australian Public Service, and why it happened needs to be examined carefully.