ACCC chairman to take on CEO role, with budget woes to tackle

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced its chairman, Rod Sims, will take on the top job as chief executive officer starting on Monday, February 3.

Sims replaces current chief executive Brian Cassidy, who announced last week that he will be retiring on May 23. The ACCC said Cassidy will assist Sims in a transition phase, and will continue to “lend his extensive experience to the ACCC’s submission to the root and branch review”.

The government’s ‘root and branch’ review is the first comprehensive examination of competition laws in 10 years.

“As Chairman I look forward to taking an even more active role in the management of the ACCC as we put in place the changes that will help keep the ACCC and the AER as strongly performing agencies into the future,” Sims said in a statement.

“We thank Brian for his outstanding career of public service. Indeed, the ACCC owes much of its professionalism and success to him.”

The news comes amid revelations that the competition regulator is set to run out of money in April this year, after several significant budget deficits have left it without the cash to operate past that date.

It has operated in deficit for several years and lost $25 million on an operating basis last financial year. It asked Treasurer Joe Hockey late last year for an extra $100 million to carry out its duties.

SmartCompany reported last week that Small Business Minister Bruce Billson is in talks with Sims to come to an arrangement.

Billson told SmartCompany he expects the remedy to the ACCC’s “dire financial predicament” will involve “some extra funding, but also a close examination of the way the Commission spends its fund and manages to live within its means, as we expect of all Commonwealth agencies”.

“It’s outrageous and appalling that the former Labor government has left such a crucial agency in such a precarious financial state,” he added. “We’re now working hard and collaboratively with the Commission’s chairman to map out a pathway to restore its financial position and sustainability.”

“We need to find a solution before the cash runs out,” Billson said.

Sims was not available for further comment on his plans as chief executive this morning.

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