The ACT Integrity Commission has revealed that three matters of “serious and systemic” corruption within the ACT public service (ACTPS) have proceeded to full investigations, while more than 10 other referrals have reached the preliminary stage of an investigation.
In total, 85 submissions have been received by the Integrity Commission since it began receiving referrals in December.
Matters referred to the ACT Integrity Commission have a significantly higher chance of being investigated than in other jurisdictions, Integrity Commission CEO John Hoitink told Region Media.
In the ACT, 15 per cent of matters are subsequently investigated, compared to between one and three per cent in other jurisdictions.
The decision to proceed with an investigation is decided by the commission’s Assessment Panel, comprised of Commissioner Dennis Cowdroy, Mr Hoitink and the three senior directors.
Despite a steady flow of inquiries and referrals, the Integrity Commission still has not filled all of its staff roles, and at least 50 per cent to 100 per cent more staff are needed for the commission to be able to handle its workload effectively, Mr Hoitink said.
“[Filling roles] also has to do with budget,” he said. “I would like to have, at a minimum this year, about 14 or 15 staff and that is based on the current workload but it is cognisant of the fact that we are very much in those formative stages of development. The budget does not allow for that [staff growth] at the moment.
“I am very conscious of the fact that we are in this COVID environment and there is money that has to be going to other entities, but by the same token in this environment where we have the amount of money that is being pushed out by government, having an agency like this is crucial to making sure those monies go to the most appropriate locations or people.”
Back in March, around three months after it started receiving complaints, there were only five staff members to handle more than 40 referrals.
There are currently 10 employees, including the Commissioner, who must also help prepare for the Commission’s move to their new Kingston headquarters in the next month as the current premises are not fit for purpose.
There are no hearing rooms or suitable locations to store evidence at the current offices in Civic, Mr Hoitink said.
“Our budget is not within a bull’s roar of where Tasmania’s [Integrity Commission] was five or six years ago,” he said.
“An independent agency that has to go to Treasury to ask for funds is not that independent. Funding is one way we would not be able to follow an investigation [so] we need to look at a new funding model.
“Now is the time we need an effective, robust and capable agency. It is all well and good saying we have an Integrity Commission, but it is no good if that Integrity Commission is reduced to a complaints processing organisation because of a lack of budget.”
For more information, or to make a complaint, visit the ACT Integrity Commission.