Dominic Perrottet
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet (Image: AAP/Bianca De Marchi)

The ground is slowly falling away underneath NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s feet. 

The icare scandal looked like it was a failure of a government agency, but each day drags the scandal closer to the state treasurer’s office.

As pressure mounts over Perrottet’s role in the scandal, another conflict of interest has emerged, this time within his office. 

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The conflict involves an American policy adviser known as Edward Yap, who was seconded to work in Perrottet’s office on the payroll of icare. 

As The Sydney Morning Herald reports, Yap had never worked a day at the state-owned insurance scheme before being seconded by the agency to work under Perrottet in August 2017. 

Now, emails obtained by The Australian reveal he was involved in a decision to deny key documents being released to NSW Labor as part of its investigation into the agency.

So is this supposed independent agency working at arms length, or hand in glove with the government?

Treasurer in the crosshairs

Perrottet was already on extremely shaky ground over the scandal. An SMH/Four Corners investigation revealed alleged mismanagement and poor governance at the state-owned insurer under his watch. Both NSW Labor and the Greens have called for his resignation. And the former Independent Commission Against Corruption counsel Geoffrey Watson has suggested the payment of Perrottet’s staff by icare should be referred to ICAC or even police. 

But the latest revelations bring the scandal much closer to home.

Perrottet has confirmed Yap was brought into his office as a senior policy adviser funded by icare. Another staffer, an administrative assistant, was also seconded to Perrottet’s office in a similar arrangement.

So who is Yap and what was he doing in the Treasurer’s office?  

According to reports, Yap is a former US Republican party operative who worked as a communications adviser to former congressman Keith Rothfus. While on the icare payroll, he joined the Treasurer on a $50,000 government trade delegation to the US.

But it’s still not clear exactly what he was doing in Perrottet’s office. 

Whether Perrottet will survive these latest developments remains to be seen. But the heat is not going away. On Friday the scandal claimed its first government scalp, with Perrottet’s chief of staff Nigel Freitas resigning over the “administrative error” that led to Yap and the administrative assistant being paid for by the agency.

It followed the resignation of CEO John Nagle after it emerged he had failed to properly declare that his wife had been given a contract with the agency. Yap’s contract has now been terminated.

Only a few weeks ago Perrottet was saying the board of icare was doing a superb job. Now it’s getting hard to see where the icare agency ends and the Treasurer’s office begins. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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