Message from the Commissioner - June 2022

The Honourable Robert Redlich QCWelcome to the June edition of IBAC Insights.

As we reach the halfway point in the calendar year, 2022 has already proven to be a busy and significant year for IBAC's work.

As I have indicated in previous editions, we are working to publish several important reports in the coming months which will outline findings of serious public sector corruption and make a number of significant recommendations for reform.

Special Report - Operation Sandon

IBAC's primary mandate is to expose and prevent corruption. In part, this is achieved through the publishing of special reports.

Special reports are public reports that detail the findings of an investigation, provide information about the harmful effects of corruption, and make recommendations for reform to prevent or reduce future corrupt conduct.

IBAC's Operation Sandon, an investigation into allegations of corrupt conduct involving councillors and a property developer in the City of Casey spanning planning approvals over a period of almost ten years, will be the subject of a special report to be tabled in Parliament.

However, the finalisation of the Operation Sandon special report has been delayed as a result of litigation.

Lessons learned from the investigation will be reflected in a large number of recommendations for reform. Local Government is an important tier of government that provides a range of essential services across all Victorian communities. The recommended reforms will cover not only local government and planning but will include lobbying and donations.

Audit Report - Victoria Police handling of complaints made by Aboriginal people

Last month, IBAC released an audit report highlighting concerning patterns and deficiencies in Victoria Police's handling of police complaints made by Aboriginal people, particularly those by children and young people.

IBAC recognises how challenging it can be to make a complaint about suspected corruption or police misconduct. There may be social, economic, or cultural barriers to speaking up and IBAC understands that making a complaint may be a difficult or confronting experience.

IBAC has already made a number of recommendations for improvement and is committed to working with Victoria Police to implement recommendations for reform.

This edition of IBAC Insights includes a special feature where you can find out more about the audit report.

We have also made a commitment to working with Aboriginal communities to build confidence in making a complaint to IBAC, and we will continue our focus on work which can identify issues and build stronger connections.

Public Hearing - Operation Bredbo

The month of May saw IBAC hold public hearings over six days as part of Operation Bredbo, an IBAC investigation into allegations that a long-standing member of Victoria Police exploited and misused his position as a police officer for reward to improperly influence people who were involved in commercial disputes or civil litigation.

The hearings examined allegations that the Detective Sergeant engaged in misconduct through maintaining improper associations and relationships and misusing information.

Operation Bredbo remains an ongoing investigation and anyone with credible information relevant to the investigation is encouraged to contact IBAC.

Anti-corruption Commissioners' Forum

On 2 and 3 June, Commissioners from all state and territory anti-corruption agencies met in Canberra to speak about current issues facing anti-corruption agencies in Australia. Some of the topics covered included the corruption risks in use of grants (pork barrelling) and lobbying practices, the protection of witnesses and persons of interest involved in anti-corruption investigations and how we measure the impact of our organisations.

In the last 12 months, the role of integrity agencies has been the subject of much public debate, scrutiny and, sadly, misinformation. We are not above scrutiny, nor should any public agency be. However, strong anti-corruption agencies must be independent and adequately resourced.

Strong anti-corruption agencies must also be supported by best-practice legislation. This includes the power to hold public hearings and launch retrospective investigations, acknowledging that agencies must continue to maintain a sharp focus on witness welfare.

Investigations and public hearings expose corruption and are the foundation upon which our prevention and education work is built, including examining systems and practices in the public sector and developing corruption-prevention education materials and services. Exposing and preventing corruption go hand in hand and are the keys to a corruption-resistant Australian public sector.

Features in this edition

This edition of IBAC Insights features a piece on the processes we follow from when we receive a complaint, through to it becoming an investigation with a special report or, in some cases, prosecution. We acknowledge it can be a complex process to understand, and we hope this serves to inform the community on how IBAC works.

IBAC is committed to making our content more accessible to the entire Victorian community including members of diverse groups. As part of this, we have recently translated our Focus Communities Strategy into multiple languages.

IBAC is always striving to better reach the people and communities who need to understand what we do, and how they can engage with us. We have recently launched a campaign to help raise awareness for people in Victoria's regional communities about IBAC's police oversight role.

In June we also launched a campaign to help Victorian public sector employees better understand what 'improper influence' is and what to do when they see or experience it. IBAC's 'Speak up to stop it' campaign highlights that any public sector employee, elected or not, is at risk of being improperly influenced – and that it can lead to corruption.

Perceptions of Corruption

Each year, IBAC undertakes a research project to better understand perceptions about public sector corruption and police misconduct and barriers and drivers to reporting. As part of this research, IBAC recently released our annual 'perceptions of corruption' survey which was sent to external stakeholders, including employees of state government departments and public sector entities, local government, Victoria Police, business suppliers who interact with the public sector and the Victorian community.

This year we received our highest number of responses and I want to thank everyone who completed the survey. These results will go a long way to providing the most accurate representation of corruption perceptions in the public sector we have ever produced, and the findings will assist with identifying opportunities to enhance integrity and corruption resistance within departments and agencies.

The Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC

IBAC Commissioner

Read more in IBAC Insights Issue 32.