ACS chief Johnson confirms departure


James Riley
Editorial Director

Australian Computer Society chief executive officer Andrew Johnson has confirmed he will leave the organisation next month, ending weeks of uncertainty over the future leadership of the society.

Whether Mr Johnson’s departure is enough to stem the boardroom brawling within the 50-year-old Society’s management committee is not clear. But an interim-CEO has been identified by InterSearch, the global search outfit commissioned to find a replacement and could be revealed within days.

Having announced his resignation in July and with a three-month notice period that would take him to early October, Mr Johnson is understood to have had a change of heart, according to people close to the situation. This sparked internecine fighting on the ACS management committee.

The Australian Computer Society at its Barangaroo digs
Premium space: The Australian Computer Society at its Barangaroo digs

But in a post on the ACS’ blog on Thursday, Mr Johnson confirmed he will leave the organisation after nine years, including nearly six years as its chief executive.

The last year of his tenure has been arguably the most turbulent 12 months in the history of the society.

The failed attempt to restructure the organisation last year, the public fight between management and a group of dissident senior members over a perceived lack of transparency and the future society, and a damning judgement in the Federal Court of the conduct of the ACS and its officers have all extracted a huge toll.

The reputational damage to the organisation has been immense. Its credibility as a professional association has been severely diminished by the nastiness of its public fight with some its most respected senior members, including Fellows and Life Members.

Rather than address the concerns of these members, the ACS instead instructed its law firm Clayton Utz to threaten media outlets with court action, demanding that reports on the ACS be removed from news sites.

Vocal critics of the organisation who have contacted InnovationAus – some as members, others as staff – are concerned the actions must surely impact the ACS’ social licence, particularly in relation to its status as a monopoly provider of accreditation services with government, the source of tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.

The latest round of infighting on the management committee – the ultimate ruling authority of the ACS – in which warring factions could not even agree to proceed with a replacement of a CEO who had already resigned months ago, has brought the ACS to the brink.

The fighting on the management committee has reached a point where at least one committee member has threatened court action against another via an outside law firm.

Accusations of bullying and inappropriate behaviour at the senior levels of the executive management have been commonplace. ACS employees that have spoken directly to InnovationAus complain of a terrible culture at the top of the organisation.

Staff turnover at the ACS is understood to have averaged more than 30 per cent for the past three years, despite the organisation known to pay salaries above market rates, and with a premium headquarters’ location at Barangaroo in one of the most expensive office buildings in Australia.

One senior executive, a direct report to the CEO, has been on paid leave from the organisation for two months for alleged inappropriate behaviour in relation to treatment of staff.

Despite an independent investigation of the behaviour having been completed and handed to the management committee, no decision has been made on the future of that executive.

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