Message from the Commissioner - December 2017

Stephen O'BryanWelcome to the final edition of Insights for 2017, and my final edition as IBAC Commissioner.

At the end of my term as the foundation Commissioner of one of Australia’s newest anti-corruption agencies, it is an opportune time to reflect on our work in exposing and preventing public sector corruption and police misconduct in Victoria.

This week, I tabled before Victorian Parliament a special report on IBAC's first five years. The report provides a summary of IBAC's key activities and achievements during our foundation years, along with highlighting some challenges and future opportunities.

When a Victorian IBAC was being proposed several years ago, there were some who believed Victoria was somehow immune from the corruption that had been exposed in other states by anti-corruption agencies. Clearly, the work of IBAC in just five years, including exposing serious corruption in some of Victoria’s major government departments, and serious police misconduct, has put that view to rest.

I encourage you to read the report, which is available on our website.

Operation Lansdowne
Our special report following an IBAC investigation into allegations of serious corrupt conduct involving South West Institute of TAFE and Bendigo Kangan Institute of TAFE was also tabled before Victorian Parliament this month.

IBAC found a training provider operated a scam through which more than $2 million of government funding was received under subcontracting arrangements with the two TAFEs, for training that did not take place.

IBAC also identified weaknesses in the systems and controls of the two TAFEs which allowed the scam to flourish. A key weakness was a failure by both TAFEs to conduct any meaningful oversight of the training which was meant to be delivered on their behalf.

The investigation expanded to include the circumstances surrounding the recruitment of particular employees and the engagement of certain contractors by V/Line. IBAC identified an environment at the transport provider where clear conflicts of interest were not declared or managed, allowing a culture of cronyism to flourish.

IBAC made five recommendations to the Department of Education and Training, South West Institute of TAFE and Bendigo Kangan Institute of TAFE, V/line and the Department of Premier and Cabinet to strengthen systems and practices to prevent corruption.

Mandatory notification
1 December 2017 marked a year since the introduction of a legislative requirement for leaders of public sector agencies to notify IBAC of suspected corruption. This edition includes an update on implementation. In that time, IBAC has received 109 mandatory notifications. These comprised 61 from state government agencies and 48 from local councils.

Mandatory notifications provide an opportunity for the leaders of state government agencies and local councils to gain a better understanding of the corruption risks for their organisations and can help inform action to prevent corruption and strengthen integrity in the Victorian public sector.

Also, the information provides an opportunity for IBAC and the Victorian public sector to build a more accurate picture of corrupt conduct and corruption risks, and to provide tailored information and resources to strengthen corruption resistance.

IBAC will continue to engage with public sector agencies to help support principal officers in meeting their mandatory reporting obligations under the legislation.

Integrity in the health sector
In this edition's special feature, Mr Terry Symonds, Deputy Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, writes about the important links between healthcare safety and integrity. Mr Symonds keenly observes that health sector leaders require the same values and behaviours to address both issues: openness, watchfulness and an appetite to learn and improve. 

The article coincides with IBAC's recent intelligence report Corruption risks associated with the public health sector, which identifies a range of corruption vulnerabilities specific to the public health sector and opportunities to strengthen corruption resistance.

New Commissioner
Finally, I extend my very best wishes to my successor, the Hon Robert Redlich QC. A former Victorian Court of Appeal judge, and someone who is eminent in the law in this state, Mr Redlich brings considerable relevant experience to the role of IBAC Commissioner.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy festive season.

Stephen O'Bryan QC