In May IBAC's Engagement team went to Horsham to present a Corruption Prevention and Integrity Insights forum. These forums are part of IBAC's state-wide engagement program and held twice-yearly in regional centres across Victoria.
The forum, supported by the Horsham Rural City Council, was opened by the council’s CEO, Sunil Bhalla. Mr Bhalla welcomed the 61 attendees, who included public sector CEOs, managers and senior staff working in integrity related roles in Horsham and surrounding areas.
IBAC CEO Alistair Maclean gave the keynote address, discussing Victoria’s integrity system and the roles of the key integrity agencies. Mr Maclean highlighted IBAC's role in preventing corruption and how these forums are an opportunity to discuss the risks of corrupt conduct and how to address them through policies.
Mr Maclean said those working in the public sector in rural and regional areas can face different integrity challenges compared to their colleagues in metropolitan areas.
'In regional areas conflicts of interest are more likely to occur, simply because communities may be smaller and it's more likely that people know each other. For example, someone could be a councillor and also a member of a local organisation that interacts with the council,' said Mr Maclean.
While conflicts of interest have been a recurring theme in IBAC's investigations, Mr Maclean said they are not necessarily an indicator of corruption.
'When a conflict of interest is not properly identified, declared or managed properly, that's when corruption can occur.'
Speakers and the topics they presented to the forum included:
- Megan Philpot, Deputy Ombudsman, Victorian Ombudsman's Office; Insights: Victorian Ombudsman – the role of the VO
- David Wolf, Chief Municipal Officer, Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate; Regional Councils and their integrity controls
- John Tomaino, Director, Whole of Government and Central Agencies, Performance Audit, Victorian Auditor-General's Office; Preventing Fraud and corruption – The role of the Auditor-General and VAGO's role in preventing fraud and corruption
- Mark Williams, Managing Director, GWM Water; GWM Water perspective – fraud and corruption prevention and risk management and controls in GWM Water
- Stuart Macintyre, Manager Strategic Intelligence, IBAC; Corruption risks and red flags.
Olivia Kings, IBAC's Manager Engagement said 'These forums are an important means of engaging with regional Victoria and discussing the unique integrity challenges public sector agencies and local councils can encounter on a day-to-day basis.'