Today's official farewell to Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf is going to be one of the most awkward.
No one can recall anything remotely similar - when one of the Mandarins of the public service is facing a potentially ignominious end to an otherwise sterling innings.
Wellington always takes notice when a public sector chief executive is in trouble.
It doesn't happen that often.
You can count them on the fingers of two hands, if not one in recent years: Christine Rankin in Winz, Lesley Longstone in Education, Peter Doone in Police, Hugh Logan in Environment, and Roger Sutton at CERA.
It is even more rare to find the head of one of the three central agencies of the public service in trouble as Makhlouf finds himself over, at the very least, the mismanagement of Budget information.
The three central agencies are the elite of the public service.
They are the State Services Commissioner, Peter Hughes; the chief executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), Brook Barrington; and Makhlouf, who has headed Treasury since 2011.
They sit at the top of the pecking order because they are the ones that can deal with all ministers and all agencies in the course of their work.
Most other chief executives deal only with their own ministers.
Treasury deals with all agencies in relation to finance, SSC deals with them in relation to conduct and the appointment and monitoring of chief executives and DPMC in terms of providing advice to the PM on activity and plans within departments and to help co-ordinate the work of the public service.
They are supposed to be the exemplars and because they sit at the top of the tree, the harder they fall.
The head of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Chris Seed, and the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Carolyn Tremain, are among the top echelons of the public service by dint of the stature of their ministries.
But they are not quite in the same category as a central agency.
The last time one of these leading public servants was in strife was Hughes over Winston Peters' overpaid pension. Hughes was vilified by Peters during the 2017 election campaign for having referred the issue to his minister under the "no surprises" policy.
For that judgment call, Peters is suing him – and others - for breach of privacy but the inquiry into Makhlouf is in quite a different league to that civil action from a frequently vicious and litigious politician.
Although the three of them, Makhlouf, Hughes and Barrington, are the powerful triumvirate leading the central agencies, Hughes is actually the employer of the other two.
Hughes has been head of the public service since 2016, having started his career in the Tory St branch of Social Welfare dealing with unemployment beneficiaries.
As he landed top jobs in Internal Affairs, Social Development and Education he earned a reputation as being a demanding boss, and very risk averse.
Hughes asked his deputy at SSC, John Ombler, to conduct the inquiry into Makhlouf.
This is Ombler's second stint as deputy State Services Commissioner. He held the post about 10 years ago but left to set up CERA, the Government agency to respond to the earthquakes in Christchurch.
Ombler handed the job over to Roger Sutton, then stepped back into the breach when Sutton left after an SSC inquiry into sexual harassment.
The inquiry did not recommend dismissal of Sutton but he resigned after a settlement with SSC.
Ombler returned to the SSC. He is used to conducting inquiries and controversy having completed the inquiry in March last year into the former Waikato District Health Board chief executive, Dr Nigel Murray.
Ombler has a solid reputation and his integrity is not questioned by National. Whatever his findings on Makhlouf, it will be hard for National to dispute them.
Hughes has a close working relationship with the heads of the other two central agencies. They meet weekly, along with the Secretary of Cabinet, and other officials working on the big issues of the day.
Brook Barrington has been in his job only four months although in that time he has dealt closely with the Nelson fires, the mosque massacres and the Budget leak.
He is no stranger to the Beehive and is seen as a listener, a doer and highly tuned to politics.
He was a former foreign affairs adviser to Helen Clark as a senior diplomat and more recently the former chief executive at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade who was highly respected by the famously difficult minister Murray McCully.
Barrington's skills were on display at Parliament on Wednesday as he was grilled by Paula Bennett over Treasury's embarrassing Budget leak and what advice he had given the PM.
"As a former diplomat, I am trained to be cautious and methodical. I am trained to wait for the evidence to present itself, to breathe deeply and to take the time to consider the facts that have been laid before me," he said.
"And frankly that was my advice to the Ninth Floor, which was everybody just needs to look at the evidence, give the Treasury time to consider and reflect on its options, and to breathe deeply."
Barrington's job is to provide the Prime Minister with the support and independent advice to do her job and that means being kept abreast of every actual and potential problem in Government.
He needs to be able to tell her when any of her ministers is proposing something problematic or needs more work or what questions need to be answered at cabinet committee or what plans have merit.
Ombler is aiming to complete his investigation before Makhlouf leaves on June 27 to take up the post of head of Ireland's central bank. His successor has not been named yet.
RECENT STATE SERVICES COMMISSIONERS
• Peter Hughes - 2016 - present
• Iain Rennie – 2008 - 2016
• Mark Prebble – 2004 - 2008
• Michael Wintringham – 1997 to 2004
RECENT SECRETARIES OF TREASURY
• Gabriel Makhlouf - 2011 - until June 27
• John Whitehead – 2003 - 2011
• Alan Bollard -1998 – 2002
RECENT HEADS OF DEPT OF PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET
• Brook Barrington (February to present)
• Andrew Kibblewhite – 2012 - 2019
• Maarten Wevers – 2004 - 2012
• Mark Prebble - 1998 - 2004