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Corruption watchdog needs reform

News

Cite as: July 2012 86 (07) LIJ, p.16

The LIV believes IBAC legislation is flawed and narrow.

The LIV is scheduled to meet with the minister responsible for the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) Andrew McIntosh over concerns it has raised over the creation of Victoria’s newest crime-fighting body.

At the time of writing the meeting was scheduled for 13 June.

In a submission to government on 9 May, the LIV urged the state government to “seriously reconsider” significant aspects of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Act 2011 (IBAC Act) creating the IBAC.

LIV president Michael Holcroft said he was pleased the LIV would be able to outline its concerns to the minister face-to-face.

Mr McIntosh has already introduced three IBAC bills to the Parliament, one to create the commission, one to give it investigative powers and one to give it examination powers.

There have also been two Acts introduced to establish the IBAC oversight body, the Victorian Inspectorate, which has the power to investigate IBAC investigations as they happen.

LIV President Michael Holcroft said the three key concerns regarding the IBAC rollout were that its mandate was too narrow and ill-defined and that the staged introduction had culminated in complex legislation.

He suggested that the government should release some clarification of the breakdown of the projected IBAC expenditure for the next four years as there were concerns that the body may be underfunded.

“We are of the view that all the Acts creating the IBAC and its oversight body, the Victorian Inspectorate, should be consolidated into one Act and released for further public comment,” Mr Holcroft said.

“We don’t want to see that chance wasted and look forward to discussing our concerns with the government in a considered and respectful manner.”

In its submission, the LIV said the definition of corrupt conduct was limited to only some indictable offences and that the offences of misconduct in public office or conspiracy were not included. It also pointed out that serious corrupt conduct was not defined.

The submission said the LIV continued to call for a robust anti-corruption body able to investigate all corruption in the public sector but that “the body’s base must be broad not only in terms of who it investigates but also the nature of the conduct to be investigated.

“Only a properly funded and structured one-stop shop for corruption can consolidate and coordinate investigations into public corruption and guarantee appropriate safeguards for those investigated and called upon to give evidence,” the submission said.

Mr Holcroft said the relationship between the IBAC Act and the Whistleblowers Protection Act was unclear and that IBAC should have broader flexibility to hold public hearings by removing the need for “exceptional circumstances”.

A spokesperson for Mr McIntosh said IBAC would have jurisdiction over 250,000 public sector employees.

“The government [also] notes that as a result of the staged development of the legislation the public has had far greater opportunity to consider the detail, including through the summer recess, than had the legislation been introduced in the whole,” he said.

“[And] the definition of serious corrupt conduct to be used by IBAC covers some 2000 indictable offences.

“It is a serious body with serious covert and coercive powers. Lesser allegations will still be capable of being investigated by the Ombudsman and other integrity bodies.”

He said the Coalition government planned to invest more than $200 million over the next four years. “This is significant funding for significant reforms, and is in addition to funding already in the base for existing integrity bodies such as the Ombudsman.”

Shadow IBAC spokesperson Jill Hennessy said the Opposition “shared many of the views put forth by the LIV about the shortcomings in the establishment and jurisdiction of the IBAC”.

“Unfortunately, this advice has fallen on deaf ears. Legislating by instalment is a bad way to build institutions and the establishment of the IBAC is a year overdue and the delay has not delivered a better model,” she said.

To view the LIV submission, visit http://tinyurl.com/6ma4wr9. To view the IBAC legislation, visit http://tinyurl.com/2vn7utc.

Jason Gregory

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