Any new anti-corruption body in the ACT should have retrospective powers to investigate issues of concern that occurred before its establishment, a Legislative Assembly committee heard yesterday (24/7/17).
Former Independent candidate for the Assembly Marea Fatseas, and the deputy chair of the Inner South Canberra Community Council, John Edquist, told the Select Committee on an Independent Integrity Commission that there were recent issues that highlighted the need for an anti-corruption body in the ACT.
Ms Fatseas, who is also the chair of the ISCCC but appearing as an individual, listed the Brumbies land deal in Griffith, the abortive land swap around Manuka Oval involving the Canberra Services Club, and the unsolicited development proposal for Manuka Oval, while Mr Edquist questioned some of the Land Development Agency’s land purchase decisions.
“We already have some examples and they need to be cleared up,” Ms Fatseas said. “When those examples aren’t dealt with they become corrosive and leads to a lack of confidence in the community that our taxpayers’ money, rates that we pay, are not being used to best effect.
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“We need to address some of those burning issues that are still concerning the community.”
Mr Edquist said some of the land purchasing decisions of the LDA were anomalous to say the least.
“Either the Land Development Agency had the most weird bureaucratic processes, and somebody should have their pay docked for allowing that to go on, or there was much worse going on,” he said.
Mr Edquist said it would be silly for any integrity commission to only look at matters from when it was established, so long as it focused on issues within the statute of limitations.
“If there have been improper, particularly illegal, activities, they should be investigated,” he said.
Ms Fatseas questioned how there could be massive public expenditures for Manuka Oval, such as the new media centre, without a land management plan, which she said was a legislative requirement.
“I just don’t know how we can get to this point,” she said.
Mr Edquist said any integrity commission should be based on the NSW ICAC model and have a broad definition of corruption to include maladministration, not just criminal activity.
He said it would be a waste of money for it not to hold public hearings and that it should be able to initiate its own inquiries, compel witnesses and conduct covert operations such as wire tapping.
Ms Fatseas said it should be established within the year so there was good time for it to be set up and to be working.
Mr Edquist said the sooner it was set up the better, suggesting the person to lead it should come from outside the ACT and be on a fixed term.
“If they’re doing their job they’re going to make enemies,” he said.
The committee hearing is streamed at http://aod.parliament.act.gov.au/