3 July 2012

Victoria now has its Independent Broad-based Anti Corruption Commission, about a year later than anticipated. But criticism is that it will not be capable of investigating as planned as some powers have yet to be enacted, and the Commission’s scope will not be as broad as is desirable.

The State Government appears not to have found a suitable candidate to head the Commission –  little interest being shown by those with the judicial prerequisites for appointment. The Premier’s comment was the Government couldn’t get an anti corruption body off the shelf from the local supermarket!.

The interim Commissioner chairs the Office of Police Integrity which is being combined with IBAC. But OPI is currently being investigated by the State Ombudsman!  The interim Commissioner has indicated that some staff are likely to move from OPI to IBAC as “…there’s a tremendous reservoir of talent in the OPI, a lot of technical skill as well…”

He said that “…corruption is an insidious business that seeps into honest endeavour, that upsets the level playing field, adds cost to public works and infrastructure and generally undermines the faith of the citizenry in its public administration…Victoria … deserves a competent anti-corruption body that focuses on that field specifically…”

Victoria has taken a long time to accept the necessity of an anti corruption body – the New South Wales ICAC has been in place since 1988 and Queensland and Western Australia have had equivalent agencies for 9 years. And the Victorian Government seems less than keen to build on the experiences of these agencies; it has not given IBAC the broad jurisdiction over misconduct in public office of those other agencies.

However the Commission will oversee the conduct of Victoria’s 250,000 public sector employees including police, local government officers ,contractors, MPs,and judges.

Successive New Zealand governments have not considered that a single anti corruption body is necessary – that the Police, the Auditor General, the Independent Police Conduct  Authority, and the Serious Fraud Office (although it was being folded into the Police in the last days of the Clark Government ) have appropriate capability. The report to be published shortly by the SFO about the economic impact of fraud may add momentum to the support shown by the Maori Party for a national body.  The SFO is collating the sort of information published by the UK National Audit Office which in its January.2012 report estimated the “value” of economic crime at more than £73 bn annually.