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NBN chief beancounter exits

The former Alcatel CFO set to retire from industry

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The bribery scandal that has gripped Alcatel-Lucent's legal team over the past few years continues to cast a shadow over its former executives.

In the latest twist, former Alcatel CFO Jean-Pascal Beaufret, the number-cruncher in command during much of the telecommunication giant's bribery activity, has abruptly exited his plum role as CFO of Australia’s National Broadband Network Co.

According to NBN Co, the 60-year-old French executive expressed his wish to retire but will stay with the carrier until January.

Beaufret's exit, which has not come as much of a surprise fellow NBN executives, coincides with a wider restructure of the group and heightened scrutiny of its activities.

While NBN Co chief Mike Quigley, the former president of fixed communications and president of Alcatel North America, took most of the heat for choosing to omit public disclosure of the criminal investigations into his former company's activities, Beaufret – who had a much wider exposure to the global operations of the vendor – remained under the radar.

Last year, Alcatel-Lucent paid the US Securities and Exchange Commission $137m to stop ongoing criminal investigations into the company's activities, surrounding bribery activities totaling over $8m for contracts secured between December 2001 and June 2006 in Latin America and Asia.

Earlier this year, former president of Alcatel Costa Rica, Edgar Valverde, copped a 15-year prison term over the scandal. Despite the settling of the bribery charges with the SEC, the matter remains a dormant time bomb as affected carriers globally periodically threaten to reopen the investigations.

NBN Co has confirmed today that it has begun a global hunt for a new chief financial officer. It is also looking for the previously unfilled role of chief operating officer, who will be tasked with overseeing construction, network operations, planning, design and internal ICT functions.

NBN Co chief Mike Quigley informed staff of the restructure this week, consolidating some functions and shifting executives in light of the finalisation of contracts with Telstra and Optus and the transition of the operation into the next phase of development.

Among the changes, head of corporate services Kevin Brown will lead the Telstra and Optus liaisons along with carrier negotiator Tim Smeallie, now reporting to Brown. Smeallie was previously one of Quigley's eight direct reports. Quigley is also creating another direct report role covering industry analysis.

The communications team has undergone another reshuffle with government relations head Mike Kaiser moving to a newly created head of quality role. Kaiser's portfolio, which included community relations and engagement, will now be looked after by new recruit former Telecom New Zealand marketing head Kieren Cooney – in the newly created role of chief communications officer role.

Recently Microsoft Australia's head of corporate affairs, Cathy Jamieson, took on the the newly created role of group manager for public communications and social media. Former McKinsey & Co principal Christy Boyce, who was head of industry engagement, has had her position made redundant.

NBN Co currently has a head count of over 700 employees and has 106 positions open for recruitment. In May the infrastructure giant said it would be taking on 1,000 new employees across the operation over the next 12 months, after appointing a panel of 17 recruitment agencies.

At the peak of NBN deployment, the company has forecast that it will have between 16,000 to 18,000 full time or contract engineering staff on board.

Earlier this week, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy released documents relating to the appointment of Quigley under freedom of information. ®

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