The NSW senior bureaucrat who pushed for Stephen Cartwright's appointment to a London-based trade ambassador role says former deputy premier John Barilaro acted "inappropriately" by becoming involved in salary discussions.
Former Treasury secretary Michael Pratt told recruitment firm NGS Global to consider Mr Cartwright after a preferred candidate, Paul Webster, was already identified, NGS consultant Marianne Broadbent told a parliamentary inquiry in August.
The upper house inquiry stems from the messy appointment of Barilaro as senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas in June, a role he resigned from within two weeks.
While initially focused on that appointment, it has expanded to examine all overseas trade positions.
Labor MP Daniel Mookhey badgered Mr Pratt into revealing the specifics of the hiring process of the London-based appointment, arguing Mr Barilaro interfered to secure an $800,00 a year salary for Mr Cartwright, despite not being authorised to do so.
Mr Pratt agreed with Mr Mookhey's assertion.
"It's inappropriate that the deputy premier is discussing renumeration because he wouldn't know frankly," Mr Pratt said on Monday.
"He can have a discussion but if he's making commitments to the candidate that is completely inappropriate."
He said the salary base normally would have started at a lower rate and be "topped up with benefits".
Labor MP John Graham referred to an email sent by Mr Cartwright to the recruitment agency in March 2021 in which he says then-treasurer and now Premier Dominic Perrottet agreed to key expenses above the salary.
Mr Cartwright said his London accommodation would be "taken care of by the NSW government" after discussing it with Mr Barilaro.
Mr Perrottet has said salary decisions were a public service matter.
Mr Cartwright eventually negotiated a salary higher than the state's five other international investment commissioners.
The government also agreed to pay his rent in London, expected to cost taxpayers $105,000.
Mr Mookhey later said it "looks like Mr Webster was taken out without even having a chance to demonstrate his gravitas with the treasurer, the deputy premier or the premier", in favour of Mr Cartwright.
However, Mr Pratt disagreed, saying "from my perspective there was no special process".
"Once he (Mr Cartwright) was in the panel assessment, he was treated like anyone else. Whether there was something on the political side, I really don't know," he said.
"The panel (members) were frankly not interested in the politics, as you'd expect ... We were interested in getting the right person for the job."
The former treasury chief maintained he "played no role in the renumeration package" for Mr Cartwright and that "no preferential treatment" was given to the current agent-general when questioned by Nationals MP Wes Fang.
"I can only talk about the process we adopted and I've said a number of times it was not a political involvement," Mr Pratt said.
Mr Cartwright told the inquiry earlier this month Mr Barilaro had met him for a coffee and told him to "throw his hat in the ring".
"It came out of left field for me," Mr Cartwright told the inquiry.
But he says it wasn't a case of "jobs for mates".
"I don't have any politicians that are mates," Mr Cartwright said.
Former Investment NSW CEO and trade department secretary Amy Brown, since sacked, told the inquiry Mr Cartwright threatened to go to "the minister or premier" when salary negotiations became difficult.
Mr Cartwright denied there were difficult discussions, saying Ms Brown just didn't have enough experience negotiating with executives.
Mr Webster told the inquiry in October he "wasn't shocked" when he did not end up being appointed.
"These are the decisions of government," he said.
He eventually was hired as Mr Cartwright's deputy.
Mr Pratt left the Treasury secretary role in January, earlier than intended after his replacement was found sooner than expected, being paid 38 weeks worth of his old salary on the way out.