Troy Buswell’s brother-in-law was hired by the West Australian Treasury just weeks after the now-disgraced Liberal took charge of the department, Crikey has learned.

Stephen Cummins was appointed principal policy analyst in the Department of Treasury and Finance in October 2008 — after his sister’s husband became Treasurer in the newly formed coalition government in September.

Buswell resigned from office yesterday after admitting he used public funds in an affair with Greens MP Adele Carles. His brother-in-law remains an employee, though was not responding to Crikey‘s calls today.

The Public Sector Standards Commissioner’s office has confirmed Cummins is a Treasury  employee, but the department is refusing to comment on his employment.

It is unknown whether Buswell was in any way involved in the recruitment of Cummins.

Cummins — the brother of Buswell’s wife Margaret — appears to be well qualified for the position. He was policy and research manager at the Peel Development Commission in 2008. A newsletter from the body reports he left for the position with Treasury in October — the month after Buswell took charge of the department.

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Despite repeated attempts by Crikey to have Cummins’ employment status confirmed, Under Treasurer Tim Marney refused to comment.

“In order to respect my peoples’ privacy, I will not comment on whether or not a particular individual is an employee of the Department of Treasury and Finance,” he wrote in an email. A media adviser for Premier Colin Barnett did not respond to questions by Crikey‘s deadline.

According to the Office of the Public Sector Standards Commissioner, the release of such information is discretionary for state government bodies. The same office later confirmed Cummins is currently employed by the Department of Treasury and Finance.

Deputy opposition leader Roger Cook was unaware of Cummins’ position when contacted by Crikey. But he said the State’s Public Sector Act clearly states a minister cannot be involved in the recruitment process of staff where there is a conflict of interest.

“If the Treasurer was in fact involved the Public Sector Commissioner would want to investigate it as soon as possible,” he said.

“It [the timing] obviously raises eyebrows but it all depends on the recruitment process.”

According to the Public Interest Disclosure statement of the WA Treasury, the department strives for accountability and seeks public confidence.

Peter Fray

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