IBAC Insights (newsletter)

Acting Commissioner’s message

Welcome to the July edition of IBAC Insights.

Since our last edition, there have been a number of significant outcomes achieved that I would like to highlight, including the release of major reports and the launch of our new, user-friendly website.

Operation Daintree

In April we tabled the Operation Daintree special report in Parliament, which looked into alleged corruption in the procurement of a $1.2 million Victorian Government contract.

This report outlined the investigation IBAC conducted into the awarding of a health training contract by the then Department of Health and Human Services to the Health Education Federation (HEF), which was reported to us by a whistleblower.

The contract between the health department and the HEF was conducted without a competitive process and a senior adviser to the health minister improperly influenced the awarding of this contract.

Following our extensive investigation, we discovered the Health Workers Union, which was linked to the HEF, was given privileged access and favourable treatment in its access to ministerial offices.

We found that ministers, ministerial advisers, and public servants breached their duties and obligations. Advisers in the Premier’s Private Office and the Minister for Health’s office interfered in the management of the HEF contract to obstruct consideration of its termination and to ensure it continued.

As a result of this operation, we made 17 recommendations to ensure that ministers have a clear understanding of their obligations and accountability for the management of ministerial staff, and the role of ministerial advisors is more transparent and accountable.

If these recommendations are implemented by the government, it will reduce the instances of such improper behaviour in the future and lead to a fairer public service with less opportunities for corruption to occur.

To learn more, I encourage you to listen to the podcast with IBAC Prevention and Communication Executive Director Linda Timothy who speaks to Deputy Commissioner Kylie Kilgour about the Operation Daintree special report.

Managing witness wellbeing

Earlier this month, the Coroner’s Court released their findings into the death of former Casey Councillor Amanda Stapledon.

Ms Stapledon was involved in IBAC’s Operation Sandon, an investigation involving councillors and property developers at the City of Casey.

The coroner found that Ms Stapledon’s mental health suffered during her involvement in Operation Sandon, and she was concerned about being referred for prosecution.  As a result of this finding, the coroner recommended that IBAC reviews the operation of its legislation, and amend its policies, and procedures “to ensure that there is no impediment in appropriate circumstances to advising witnesses as early as possible after a decision has been made, that their conduct is not under contemplation for the purpose of prosecution”.

We accept the Coroners Court recommendation, and we are reviewing the operation of our legislation and associated practices to address the coroner’s recommendation.

IBAC's statutory functions are to expose and prevent serious and systemic corrupt conduct and police misconduct. In performing these functions and given the serious nature of the matters IBAC considers, we recognise that people involved in or subject to our investigations and examinations may be under a level of stress.

We have a range of measures and support services in place that witnesses can access throughout the investigation, however in our commitment to continuous improvement we know that we need to always work to improve the practices that can better support both complainants and witnesses.

To read about our recent enhancement to our approach to witness wellbeing please read our story in this edition of Insights.

Tackling predatory behaviour within Victoria Police

One of IBAC’s strategic focus areas is to prevent and expose inappropriate Victoria Police responses to family violence and predatory behaviour incidents involving police personnel. IBAC will continue to keep this as a key focus area of our police oversight role, working to reduce the prevalence of these behaviours by police officers and employees.

Despite efforts undertaken by Victoria Police over recent years, predatory behaviour within Victoria Police remains a problem.

Predatory behaviour is where a police officer misuses their position to begin – or attempt to begin – an emotional or sexual relationship with a person they meet in the course of their duties. It can also relate to the sexual assault, stalking, harassment or grooming of a person.

In a recent IBAC thematic review of predatory behaviour by Victoria Police officers, released in May, we assessed 27 Victoria Police investigations of alleged predatory behaviour by police officers between 2018 and 2022.

Thematic reviews are when IBAC assesses whether Victoria Police investigations have been conducted in a way that is thorough, impartial, fair – and assesses whether their findings are evidence based and outcomes are reasonable.

Concerningly, we found that evidence of predatory behaviour within Victoria Police persists and that many cases went unreported.

Following this review, we recommended that Victoria Police undertake employee training, complaint investigation reporting, and record keeping. We also advised that Victoria Police increase monitoring of the ethical health of police officers who are subject to predatory behaviour allegations.

Annual plan

IBAC has tabled its Annual Plan 2023/24 this month outlining our priorities for the next twelve months, as well as a budget overview.

Throughout the year we speak to our stakeholders, gather intelligence, and analyse data to help us decide the strategic focus for the year ahead.

For the 2023/24 financial year we will continue our focus on high-risk police units, divisions, and regions; excessive use of force, including use on people at risk; police responses to family violence; police responses to incidents of predatory behaviour; high-risk public sector agencies, including those managing high-value matters, and improper influence.

IBAC also plans to pilot a maturity rating scale for selected Victorian Government departments so they can measure their integrity maturity to help them to build their corruption resistance.

IBAC's new website

We have been receiving great feedback from the community about our new easy-to-use website, which we launched in April.

Some of the website’s key features include easy and quick access to resources; a personalised homepage experience – for example, by telling us what area of the public sector you are interested in, the content refreshes to be more relevant to you; step-by-step “complaint” and “provide info” reporting forms - including more support options as you progress through; quick links to police and public sector information; and a quick exit safety/privacy button.

Our main goals were to give the public sector, including local government and Victoria Police and community improved access to more information, and easier avenues to report corruption and misconduct. I hope you will enjoy our new website.

Read more in this issue of IBAC Insights