Message from the Commissioner - December 2019

The Honourable Robert Redlich QC

Welcome to the final edition of IBAC Insights for 2019. This year has been a successful and productive one, with a number of significant IBAC events, activities and publications.

Consistent feedback from IBAC Insights readers is their interest in case studies discussing actual integrity issues. I am sure readers will find the interview in this issue with Lucy Roffey, CEO of Central Goldfields Shire Council interesting. Ms Roffey discusses steps being taken to improve processes and practices in the Central Goldfields Shire Council following the appointment of administrators in March 2018 after the elected councillors were dismissed. I thank Ms Roffey for sharing her experiences.

IBAC annual report tabled

As IBAC's annual report outlines, in 2018/19, IBAC completed 45 investigations and preliminary inquiries, a 221 per cent increase on the previous year. A strong focus of IBAC's work in 2018/19 was to raise awareness of behaviours and cultures that can help public sector corruption flourish, and that public sectors leaders need to address.

7th Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference

In October we were delighted to host over 500 delegates at the 7th Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference (APSACC) in Melbourne. Considerable work went into planning this event over the past year, and I am confident those who attended would agree the program was outstanding. I thank all our speakers including The Honourable Anne Ferguson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria for the opening address and The Honourable Jennifer Coate AO for her keynote, as well as our international keynote speakers Dr Layode Syarif, Commissioner of the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission, Professor Robert Klitgaard, and Ms Sarah Chayes. Presentations from these keynote speakers can be viewed here.

I would like to acknowledge the members of the APSACC 2019 co-ordinating committee, as well as the many IBAC staff involved, for their extraordinary work in making this event such a great success.

Prior to APSACC I joined with my fellow anti-corruption Commissioners to release a joint communiqué which addressed practical measures for detecting corruption, and exposing and preventing it. There are similar patterns in the complaints all integrity agencies across Australia receive and the matters we investigate; identifying wrongdoing provides a valuable opportunity to understand the underlying causes and emerging risks of corruption.

IBAC's Operation Sandon public hearings

Last week the first round of IBAC's public hearings into allegations of serious corrupt conduct in relation to planning and property development decisions at the City of Casey concluded. The hearings are part of an IBAC investigation, Operation Sandon, into allegations of corrupt conduct involving councillors and property developers in the City of Casey in Melbourne's south-east.

In his opening statement, Counsel assisting Mr Michael Tovey QC of the Victorian Bar, noted the important role of local councils and the position of trust elected councillors have. As Mr Tovey outlined, IBAC's investigation suggests a distinct lack of transparency, accountability and in some cases integrity around certain decisions of the City of Casey Council and raises a disturbing level of suspicion around the relationship between certain councillors and individuals involved in property development. Hearings will resume in early 2020.

Public hearings are an important tool in IBAC’s ability to create a corruption resistant public sector. Corruption resistance requires everyone to understand what corruption looks like. Public hearings are an effective way of exposing, testing and developing with the community a shared understanding about conduct that is corrupt or contributes or conceals corrupt conduct.

Looking ahead to 2020

As IBAC's operations continue to grow, so therefore does the funding required to deliver our important work. We will continue to put a robust business case to government for responsible and sustainable increases to our funding to ensure our work to foster a corruption resistant public sector in Victoria is sustainable over time.

In 2020 a key focus for IBAC will continue to be the provision of independent police oversight, especially in response to recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants, and expected government response to the 2018 IBAC Parliamentary Committee’s report into external oversights of police corruption and misconduct in Victoria.

As many Insights readers would be aware, new legislation will come into effect on 1 January to further support people making disclosures in the public interest. Throughout 2019, IBAC has been working with a range of agencies and stakeholders to help the Victorian public sector prepare for these changes.

In January we will welcome a new CEO, Ms Marlo Baragwanath. Ms Baragwanath, who joins IBAC from her role as Victorian Government Solicitor, is a highly regarded leader and will build on the significant legacy of IBAC's founding CEO, Alistair Maclean, who has successfully steered IBAC through its first seven years, building a solid foundation for the agency, with many notable achievements.

In closing, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Alistair Maclean who finishes his role with IBAC at the end of December. Alistair has ably led IBAC for seven years from its establishment, consolidating the Commission as an agency that has significantly changed the integrity and anti-corruption landscape in Victoria for the better. He can look back with great pride on his achievements. I thank Alistair for his service to the organisation and commend him on his contribution as CEO of IBAC, to helping make Victoria a better place.

Wishing all IBAC Insights readers a safe and happy festive season, and best wishes for the New Year.

The Honourable Robert Redlich QC

Read more in IBAC Insights Issue 22.