Snowy chief upset ministers with surprises

A former Snowy Hydro chief who upset two ministers with "surprise" media statements received a performance payment and some extra cash for his voluntary resignation.

The circumstances of Paul Broad's departure from the federal government-owned company have been aired in budget estimates hearings in Canberra.

Mr Broad quit as CEO in August amid tensions with Energy Minister Chris Bowen and against a backdrop of cost blowouts and delays to the Snowy 2.0 hydro power project.

Monday's hearing was told the project is currently about a year behind schedule and cost overruns are expected.

It also heard of high-level concern about how Mr Broad communicated with departmental staff, ministers, and within his own organisation.

Snowy Hydro chairman David Knox said the concerns were addressed at an August 23 meeting with Mr Bowen and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher.

"We discussed ... the communication issues between Snowy Hydro and the secretaries, and the departments and the ministers," Mr Knox said.

"The minister (Bowen) was very clear that he needed to see those communications improve, that they were unsatisfactory."

Mr Knox said it was vital that there were "never any surprises either to departments or to ministers".

"In the ministers' view ... there were surprises," he said.

"There were basically things that occurred in the press ... which were not pre-warned to the ministers. And therefore the ministers were unhappy about being surprised.

"There weren't just one, there were a few of them."

He said there was concern about the "tone" of conversations "from Snowy to the ministers" and that it "was not as open and straightforward as it should have been".

"It was not a particular incident, it was a series of incidents that really just revolved ... mostly around the tone of conservations as well as their actual (content)."

Mr Knox said his own concerns about communication prompted him to set up an internal process, involving Mr Broad, to improve things.

David Fredericks, the secretary of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, said he also spoke to Mr Broad about his conduct, but Mr Bowen didn't ask him to.

He said he wasn't aware the Snowy Hydro board had approved a performance payment for Mr Broad just prior to the August 23 meeting.

Mr Knox said the payment was linked to Mr Broad hitting key performance indicators largely related to the company's performance as a whole, under his leadership, rather than any individual factor.

He also confirmed Mr Broad got a termination payment after he decided to resign.

When asked if that was usual for voluntary resignations, he said it was, and that provision was in Mr Broad's "very standard" CEO contract.

Snowy Hydro acting CEO Roger Whitby thanked Mr Broad for a decade of leadership before explaining why the project was running behind.

He said it had been affected by high material costs, supply chain issues, COVID-19, labour shortages and weather challenges.

"My personal opinion is they are about 12 months behind program," Mr Whitby said, but added the contractor was "required to accelerate".

"To the extent they have any valid contractual claims we will of course pay them, as we are required to under the contract."

But overall the project will still sitting within the original $5.9 billion "envelope" of funding.