In the press conference, Commissioner Peter Hughes was basically damning of Makhlouf. Some key takeaways were:
- Makhlouf refuses to accept he did anything wrong, and has not apologised. He rejects the findings of the SSC report.
- Hughes expects Makhlouf should have offered his resignation in response to the failure by Treasury to keep Budget information secure, and his unreasonable responses to it
- Hughes got legal advice on whether he could sack Makhlouf but this incident by itself was not enough to sack him, taking into account his eight years of service
- If Makhlouf wasn’t finishing today, he would have looked at some sort of formal disciplinary action such as a formal warning
- Hughes said that Makhlouf’s reputation was deservedly damaged by what he did, and that Hughes public comments are designed to put on the record that his behaviour was unreasonable and not of the standard expected
- Hughes referred to the international media interest in Makhlouf. It will be interesting to see what happens in Ireland now.
- Hughes said that short of putting Makhlouf in “public stocks” he is doing everything he can to make clear his dissatisfaction with what happened
- A key mantra from Hughes was mistakes will happen but he expects CEs to own it, fix it and learn from it. Makhlouf seems unwilling to accept ownership what happened and was too focused on the actions of those who accessed the information and not the actions of the agency he runs that made the information public by mistake.
What is also interesting is the report makes clear that Makhlouf told Robertson that the information came from searches on the Treasury website. This should have been enough information for Robertson to push back against the suggestion it was a criminal hack. Instead Robertson smeared National with his own press release.