IBAC Insights (newsletter)
Issue 34: Message from the Commissioner
Welcome to the December edition of IBAC Insights; this is the final edition for 2022 and the final edition for me as IBAC Commissioner.
My five-year term ends this Friday 16 December. It is perhaps fitting that the timing of my departure, and that of this edition, aligns closely with that of international anti-corruption day which fell on 9 December. This provides a good opportunity to reflect on the past five years and to look back on the significant amount of work that has been done to prevent and expose public sector corruption and police misconduct in Victoria.
It has been a privilege to serve the community as the Commissioner of IBAC.
As Victoria's anti-corruption and police oversight agency, the purpose of IBAC is to prevent and expose public sector corruption and police misconduct. To fulfil this purpose effectively, we rely on the trust of the Victorian community. In practice, this means we rely on community members to know about IBAC and contact us about suspected corruption and police misconduct.
IBAC recognises and understands the challenges faced by people making a complaint about suspected corruption or police misconduct. I would like to thank all the people who have bravely come forward to report suspected corruption and police misconduct. It takes courage to speak out and it is this courage that enables IBAC to do our work.
Corruption harms all Victorians, and every Victorian has the right to make a complaint to IBAC and have that complaint assessed and, where appropriate, investigated.
As Commissioner, it is important that I advocate to ensure IBAC has the powers and resources required to fulfil its legislative obligations. Over my tenure I’m grateful for the fact that we have achieved a great deal in this area. Some of the more significant achievements included securing expanded funding of $20 million over four years as part of the Victorian Government's budget package in mid-2021 and securing legislative amendments to strengthen the Public Interest Disclosure (PID) scheme.
However, more reform is still needed. In October 2022, IBAC, the Victorian Auditor-General's Office and the Victorian Ombudsman, called on the Government for greater budgetary independence. A joint paper set out a case to further strengthen the perceived and actual independence of integrity agencies.
Perceptions of corruption
This edition of IBAC Insights features a piece on IBAC's 2022 perceptions of corruption survey results. These surveys occur every few years and help IBAC understand emerging issues and inform our prevention and education activities.
Results from this year's surveys show an increase in perceptions that public sector corruption and police misconduct are a problem in Victoria since the last surveys in 2019 and 2016.
Special report on corruption risks associated with donations and lobbying
In October, IBAC tabled a special report in Parliament highlighting the corruption risks associated with donations and lobbying and warning how they could affect the fairness of decisions and lead to corruption. The special report makes several recommendations for donations and lobbying reform at the state and local government level, including a review of the existing regulatory regime, and for constraints to be put in place to limit the disproportionately privileged access some lobbyists have to decision-makers.
Other key recommendations include election campaign expenditure being declared and capped; fundraising events, third party campaigners and in-kind donations to be more tightly controlled; and the establishment of a central authority to manage all donation reporting for local government.
To learn more, I encourage you to listen to the podcast recorded for this edition with Deputy Commissioner David Wolf who goes into detail about the issues and recommendations for donations and lobbying reform in Victoria.
Special report on misconduct issues and risks associated with Victoria Police's Critical Incident Response Team
Also in October, IBAC tabled a special report in Parliament highlighting ongoing misconduct issues and risks with Victoria Police's Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT). The special report Police misconduct issues and risks associated with Victoria Police’s Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) highlights several incidents, issues and risks with CIRT as well as repeated failures of CIRT officers to accurately report their use of force, a lack of adherence to the Charter of Human Rights, inadequate risk planning and processes, and poor communication by some CIRT officers when responding to incidents.
A key recommendation from the report is for Victoria Police to improve the accuracy of, and compliance with, its use of force reporting. This will assist both Victoria Police and IBAC to ensure force is used according to policy and legislation and to identify trends and patterns in the use of force by officers that may need to be investigated.
In November, seven people, including the former V/Line CEO and a former manager at Metro Trains, were charged as part of IBAC's investigation into serious corrupt conduct in V/Line and Metro's tendering and procurement processes, known as Operation Esperance. The charges relate to the awarding of lucrative cleaning contracts and the receipt of secret commissions by senior V/Line and Metro officers. The first court appearance will be in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 21 December 2022.
Acting Commissioner Stephen Farrow
On 28 October, the Government advised of the appointment of IBAC Deputy Commissioner Stephen Farrow as IBAC's Acting Commissioner. Please see the link to the Attorney-General's Media Statement. Stephen's acting appointment commences on 17 December 2022.
Stephen joined IBAC as Deputy Commissioner in July 2021. In his time at IBAC, he has worked across both the police and public sector jurisdictions and was a key part of the team that investigated and delivered the special report on Operation Watts.
The Government has said it will commence recruitment for a permanent appointment to the role of Commissioner shortly. In the meantime, I wish Stephen well and know the agency is in good hands under his stewardship.
It has been a pleasure to work alongside all the passionate and dedicated employees at IBAC throughout my five years at the agency. Working closely with CEO Marlo Baragwanath and Deputy Commissioners David Wolf, Kylie Kilgour and Stephen Farrow has been very rewarding, and each have performed their roles to the highest standards.
It is pleasing to see the issue of integrity taking centre stage in the minds of many in the community. This increased public attention on the actions of public servants, police and IBAC is a positive thing.
IBAC's vision is for a public sector and police that acts with integrity for all Victorians. Well beyond my tenure, IBAC will continue to ensure all Victorian's voices are heard in the prevention and exposure of corruption and misconduct.
The Honourable Robert Redlich AM, KC