Welcome to the first issue of IBAC Insights for 2018, and my first as Commissioner. On accepting the role as Commissioner of IBAC, I was well aware of the organisation’s significant achievements in its first five years. Since starting in January, I have been impressed by the capacity of the organisation, the quality and enthusiasm of its executive and staff, and their shared commitment to strengthening our efforts to expose and prevent public sector corruption and police misconduct.
A background in the law has taught me that unethical behaviour, misconduct and corruption cannot flourish unless ‘good people’ turn a blind eye to such conduct and refrain from taking active steps to prevent this behaviour. This is particularly true in organisations. There is some excellent work being done across Victoria’s public sector, and IBAC’s reports and other prevention resources can inform and support agencies' anti-corruption strategies. However, the best resistance to corruption always comes from within an organisation.
This edition of Insights includes a focus on perhaps the most critical prevention measure - ethical leadership. This is a topic that has attracted considerable community interest of late, with debate around leadership and integrity in sport, business and political sectors, as well as in relation to our police and public sector agencies.
The vast majority of state and local government employees work in the public sector because they want to make a positive contribution and support the delivery of vital services that our community relies on every day. However, public sector leaders would be naïve not to acknowledge that corruption does – and will – occur in their organisations. Not every instance will be major. But if left unchecked, as IBAC investigations demonstrate, minor ethical breaches can over time develop into very serious matters. Accepting that corruption exists, helps make the task of exposing it easier.
When wrongdoing is identified, how a leader responds is crucial to any assessment of their real commitment to integrity. Dealing with corruption firmly and openly sends a powerful message that it will not be tolerated. And the fact that there is an independent agency in Victoria, IBAC, which has a mandate to expose and prevent public sector corruption and police misconduct, in no way diminishes the responsibility of public sector leaders to strongly model integrity and promote corruption resistant cultures within their agencies. In this context, the thoughtful contribution in this edition by Dr Paul Grimes, Victoria’s Public Sector Commissioner, is timely and I commend it to you.
Parliamentary Committee inquiry into external oversight of Victoria Police
IBAC’s independent oversight of Victoria Police is perhaps one of our most visible and important roles. Police have significant powers and the community rightly expects them to use these powers responsibly and to perform their duties fairly, impartially and in accordance with the law. Recent incidents involving alleged excessive use of force by Victoria Police officers, which are subject to investigation by IBAC, have raised community concern and generated discussion about police oversight arrangements.
The IBAC Parliamentary Committee is conducting an inquiry into the external oversight of police corruption and misconduct in Victoria. My evidence to the Committee outlined ways in which IBAC is seeking to strengthen our independent police oversight role, including through increasing our investigative capacity, and the number of cases we review. IBAC welcomes debate about how police oversight may be enhanced, and looks forward to the Committee’s report.
In addition to assessing police complaints and notifications, and conducting investigations and reviews into particular cases, IBAC conducts strategic research and audit projects to assist Victoria Police to improve its systems and practices to prevent police misconduct and corruption. IBAC’s recently released report, Audit of Victoria Police’s oversight of serious incidents, is just one example of our strategic police oversight work. This report provides the results of an IBAC audit of how Victoria Police conducted reviews of serious incidents; including those involving deaths or serious injuries to the public. IBAC’s audit identified a range of concerns with Victoria Police’s reviews of serious incidents, including deficiencies in the management of conflicts of interest, consideration of human rights issues and examination of relevant evidence. IBAC’s findings and recommendations have been accepted by Victoria Police, which is required to report back on implementation.
Collaboration across our integrity system
Over the past few months, in meetings with my counterparts from other Victorian Integrity agencies a consistent theme of our discussions has been how we can further enhance the ways our agencies work together. Strengthening collaboration in Victoria’s integrity system is also an area addressed in a Bill recently introduced into Victoria’s Parliament. The Integrity and Accountability Legislation Amendment (Public Interest Disclosures, Oversight and Independence) Bill 2018 proposes changes to a number of areas of Victoria’s integrity system including improvements to enable IBAC, the Victorian Ombudsman and other relevant bodies to better share information to resolve complaints. It also proposes changes to the Protected Disclosure Act 2012 to support ‘whistleblowers’, or people making disclosures in the public interest.
With the year well underway, we are continuing our prevention and engagement work with the public sector, including a program of regional meetings and a forum in Traralgon this month, and the launch of a community of practice for Protected Disclosure Coordinators. Building on previous research work, and in close consultation with participating councils, IBAC is also reviewing integrity frameworks in a sample of six councils across metropolitan and regional areas. And we are reviewing integrity frameworks in a selection of state government departments and agencies.
This week IBAC also released research on perceptions of corruption in the Victorian community. It’s encouraging that this research shows most Victorians are confident they know what corruption is and are willing to report it. Furthermore, just over half of those surveyed agreed that they had a responsibility to prevent corruption. However, this research also shows that more work is needed to raise awareness about how to report public sector corruption in Victoria and the protections available. We look forward to using the findings from this research to inform the development of IBAC’s future prevention and community education activities.
The Honourable Robert Redlich QC