Update: A special report on Operation Watts has been published and tabled in the Victorian Parliament.
IBAC held public hearings in October and November 2021 into allegations of serious corrupt conduct involving Victorian public officers, including Members of Parliament. The hearings were part of Operation Watts, a joint investigation between IBAC and the Victorian Ombudsman, which looked into a range of matters including allegations of misuse of electorate offices, ministerial office staff and resources for branch stacking and other party-related activities.
The scope and purpose of the public hearings was to investigate:
- Whether public officers, including Victorian Members of Parliament, are engaging in corrupt conduct while in public office by directing ministerial and electorate office staff to perform party‐political work during times when those staff are paid from public funds to perform ministerial or electorate work.
- Whether public money granted to community associations by the Victorian government has been misused to fund party‐political activities or for other improper purposes and, if so, whether the Ministers or other public officers involved in granting the funds have dishonestly performed their functions as public officers or have knowingly or recklessly breached public trust.
- The circumstances surrounding any actual or potential personal benefits obtained by any public officer, their families or their associates, resulting from, or otherwise in connection with the use of ministerial and electorate office staff to perform party‐political work or grants made to community associations.
- The systems and controls in place to monitor the expenditure of public funds for ministerial and electorate office staff and the making of community grants and the extent to which organisational culture and practices have fostered that conduct or hindered opportunities or attempts to detect and eliminate that conduct.
The hearings were presided over by IBAC's Commissioner The Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC. Counsel assisting was Chris Carr SC of the Victorian Bar.