The leadership and future strategic direction of the 50-year-old Australian Computer Society faces an existential moment of truth on Friday as its ruling management committee faces a vote of no confidence at a meeting of society’s electoral college-style National Congress.
The meeting of the National Congress comes a day after the ACS’s long-serving chief executive officer Andrew Johnson officially left the organisation, replaced late on Thursday by interim CEO Rupert Grayston, and internal candidate and proverbial ‘safe pair of hands’ appointed to steady the ship as a search is conducted for a long-term cehief executive.
The extraordinary meeting of the National Congress follows a year of controversies and bad blood between warring factions, with accusations and counter accusations of bullying and other bad behaviour.
ACS president Ian Oppermann, who was elected to the role last March, has put forward four motion to the National Congress today that – if successful – could lead to the management committee being forced to step down, to be reconstituted with a fresh vote.
Dr Oppermann, who is also the NSW Government chief data scientist, wrote to the National Congress a week ago to inform them of a damning set of internal governance challenges, including the extraordinary allegations of a culture of bullying and a lack of transparency across the organisation.
The letter included the revelations that the workplace regulator SafeWork NSW was formally investigating a complaint of bullying at the ACS, as well as the shocking results of a workplace survey that had portrayed “a culture of bullying and fear within the ACS” and led to a staff turnover of more than 40 per cent for the past three years.
Dr Oppermann has proposed four motions for the National Congress meeting, each seconded by by the ACS’ South Australia state chair Christopher Radbone.
Motion 1: That all Management Committee minutes for 2019 and 2020 and hereafter on an ongoing basis be made available to Congress, other than those sections of minutes related to incamera sessions, and those sections of minutes subject to ongoing legal privilege.
Motion 2: That a pecuniary interest register be established and updated at each Management Committee meeting when Interests and potential Conflicts of interest are declared where each member of Management Committee must disclose if they and/or any member of their immediate family, or any company they are associated with, receives any benefits from ACS or any supplier of goods or services to ACS. This register to be maintained by the secretariat of Congress on behalf of the ACS.
Motion 3: That a full and detailed independent financial audit be conducted of ACS expenditure for the financial years 2018/19, and 2019/20. This audit to specifically examine adherence to the ACS delegated authority framework, and examine formal agreements entered into by the ACS.
Motion 4: That Congress has lost confidence in the ACS Management Committee. When the vote for these motions is held, it will be by a secret ballot to be scrutineered by ACS’ auditors.
The passage of these motions today would inevitably lead to re-invention of the society. The passage of the fourth motion – the no confidence vote on its own ruling body – would lead to a further meeting of the Congress in coming weeks to vote on spilling the management committee.
Despite the intense lobbying of Congress members by some of the most senior members of the ACS’ professional ranks, nothing is certain about the outcome of the vote.
Meanwhile, the ACS said while Rupert Grayston has been appointed as interim CEO effective immediately, the global search for ACS’ permanent CEO is continuing.
Mr Grayston joined ACS in July 2018 as Director of Professional Standards & Assessment Services. In this role, he has reviewed and reformed a number of operational functions within the organisation.
His last role was with the Australian Property Institute where he set new directions for national structured learning programs for property professionals. He also worked as a senior executive for over 10 years with Engineers Australia, a peak professional body of over 200 staff and 100,000 members.
“I’m excited to be leading ACS during this interim period as we undertake the search for a new CEO,” Grayston said.
“My experience in association management and strategy, as well as a thorough working knowledge of the dynamics of membership organisations, puts me in a strong position to look after the professional home for Australia’s ICT sector.”