12 March 2013
Victoria’s difficulties in establishing an anti corruption agency appear to continue. The State government reluctantly acknowledged the need for a dedicated agency, indicating in 2010 that it would have a specialist role. The proposal was that it would be interested only in serious corruption by public servants and politicians – not the misconduct which usually falls within the jurisdiction of comparable Australian jurisdictions.
Political reluctance to set up the agency seemed to be reflected also in the protracted parliamentary passage of establishing legislation. The timetable announced by the government proved very optimistic. Even before it came into force in mid February, a former Supreme Court judge had described the Independent Broad-based Anti Corruption Agency as a “toothless tiger”. Events of the last week suggest that problems are not mere teething troubles. The agency’s set up has been as cumbersome as its name
Media reports are that IBAC investigators have not been empowered with the capacity to undertake serious investigations. This was revealed when the agency found it had not yet been delegated powers to probe allegations made by the resigning Premier Ted Baillieu last week. IBAC is required to work to stringent evidentiary requirements, but does have the authority to gather the evidence it needs.
Then to the further embarrassment of IBAC, one of the six directors, only appointed in January, has now resigned “for family reasons” but contemporaneous with reports of intimidation and harassment of staff.