Message from the Commissioner - June 2019

IBAC Commissioner The Hon Robert Redlich QC

Welcome to the June issue of IBAC Insights.

IBAC's awareness campaign

IBAC's work investigating corruption is often the subject of considerable media attention and public interest. But our work on preventing public sector corruption and educating the community about corruption and its impacts is our most important role. My personal experience as a judicial officer has taught me prevention is better than cure, and unethical behaviour, misconduct and corruption cannot flourish unless 'good people' turn a blind eye to bad behaviour.

As part of our prevention focus, in June IBAC launched an awareness campaign to encourage Victorians to report public sector corruption. The campaign aims to increase Victorians' knowledge and understanding of public sector corruption, its impacts and the protections available for those who come forward.

IBAC relies on information from the community to help us expose and prevent corruption because corrupt behaviour is, by its very nature, secretive and difficult to detect. Many of IBAC's investigations start as a result of well-informed tip-offs. Research undertaken by IBAC indicates that while Victorians may be able to identify corrupt behaviours and acts of misconduct, many do not report it because they don't know how and where to do so. This research also shows some believe reporting corruption carries unreasonable risks.

The campaign explains what public sector corruption is, why it matters and addresses some barriers that exist to reporting it. Importantly, it explains how people can report corruption to IBAC.

IBAC encourages public sector agencies to do more to educate the community and particularly their employees about the protections available to people who speak up about corruption. I look forward to reporting on the results of the campaign in future issues of IBAC Insights, and I encourage readers to support the campaign by sharing it with colleagues and contacts.

Behaviours that mask misconduct

One way in which we have been supporting agencies in the public sector, such as Victoria Police, to build their corruption prevention capacity is to better understand it. In this context, IBAC has been discussing 'obscuring behaviours', which are a range of behaviours that can cover up, or obscure, misconduct and corruption by any public sector employee. This was the focus of my recent keynote address at the Law Institute of Victoria's Government Lawyers Conference and also a subject of discussion at a meeting with my state and territory counterparts in Adelaide in May, where we resolved to prepare a joint statement on obscuring behaviours to release at the Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference in October.

Put simply, obscuring behaviours occur when those directly involved, or witnesses, conceal or fail to accurately disclose misconduct, or when managers or supervisors fail to rigorously inquire about, report, or indeed actively conceal misconduct. Obscuring behaviours contribute to patterns of under-reporting, or failure to report, misconduct or corruption. An adverse effect of obscuring behaviours is a decrease in trust and confidence in the public sector, and missed opportunities to take action. Obscuring behaviours were evident in the falsification of preliminary breath tests by Victoria Police officers. A redacted version of the full report of the independent investigation into this matter by former Chief Commissioner Neil Comrie AO has been released by Victoria Police.

Obscuring behaviours have been the focus of several recent meetings with Victoria Police, such as when IBAC Deputy Commissioner Katie Miller and I had the opportunity to speak with staff from Victoria Police's internal investigation and ethical standards unit, Professional Standards Command, and also when I met with the Victoria Police Command group this month. These meetings have been opportunities to discuss behaviour that enables and supports misconduct and also for IBAC and Victoria Police to discuss how more information on corruption and misconduct can be integrated into existing police education programs. New content is currently being developed, and this will be incorporated into training programs attended by Victoria Police officers at all levels – from new recruits to senior officers. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with Victoria Police as well as the broader public sector on opportunities to strengthen the information being provided to employees about ethics and integrity.

Internal review of the application of IBAC's coercive powers

Any agency that has significant powers, particularly coercive powers has an obligation to use them responsibly. IBAC is no exception to this given we are charged with the responsibility of investigating serious and systemic corruption by public officers. As part of our ongoing review of our policies and procedures, IBAC recently conducted a review of how we apply our coercive powers. We did this to ensure the organisation and staff continue to align with industry best-practice and community expectations, and ensure we always employ these powers appropriately in our work. This resulted in small changes, such as increasing our capacity to manage extenuating witness issues, particularly for those who have been directed to provide information under the coercive powers available under the IBAC Act. Supporting the welfare of all people involved in our investigations is a responsibility we take very seriously. You can read more about our welfare protection approach on our website.

Continuing the focus on ethical leadership

As readers would know, ethical leadership is a subject I have explored in previous issues of IBAC Insights. Over the past few months, IBAC has invited several leading experts to speak to our staff as part of an internal ethics seminar series. We have heard from public sector leaders, ethicists and others to help us develop awareness, critical thinking and connection to the role of ethical decision making in our daily work. Our presenters have included Victoria's Public Sector Commissioner Dr Paul Grimes, Peter Collins, Director of the Vincent Fairfax Fellows program and a former director of the Centre for Ethical Leadership, and Mr David Burfoot, Senior Advisor for The Ethics Centre. This issue of IBAC Insights includes an article from Peter Collins exploring the subject of ethical fading, based on his presentation to IBAC staff. I thank Mr Collins for his contribution, along with all the speakers who have been part of this seminar series.

IBAC's new parliamentary oversight committee

I was delighted to meet Mr Steve McGhie and Mr Brad Rowswell, the Chair and Deputy Chair of our parliamentary oversight committee, the Integrity and Oversight Committee. The Committee was formed in March with the merger of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Committee and the Accountability and Oversight Committee. I look forward to working with the members of this newly constituted committee as they continue their important work oversighting IBAC.

I was also pleased IBAC Deputy Commissioner Katie Miller had the opportunity to join with Ms Deborah Glass, Victorian Ombudsman and Mr David Wolf, Chief Municipal Inspector to present at a briefing session for members of parliament, following the November 2018 Victorian election. Deputy Commissioner Miller spoke about IBAC's role in Victoria's integrity system, which is explained in a new video developed by IBAC in partnership with the Victorian Ombudsman and the Victorian-Auditor General's Office.

The Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference

Work on finalising the program for the 7th Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference is gathering momentum, with the conference now only a few months away. There’s been strong interest, and I'm pleased to announce The Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate, former Judge of the Family Court of Australia and Commissioner of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, will deliver a keynote address. I encourage those interested to register now for what is an excellent program.

In closing, special thanks to those readers who responded to the survey on IBAC Insights in our last issue. We were pleased with the number of readers who responded and the valuable feedback they provided. It was encouraging to hear those who responded find IBAC Insights valuable. A consistent theme in the feedback was our readers would like to see more case studies and information on our investigations, so, in this issue, we have included a case study on IBAC's Operation Yalgar investigation. You'll also find an interesting piece by Mr John Lynch, who has recently joined IBAC's investigations team; he shares his thoughts on creating a corruption-resistant culture.

Feedback from our readers is welcome at any time, and I invite you to tell us about topics you would like to see in future issues. I hope you enjoy this issue of IBAC Insights.

The Honourable Robert Redlich QC

Read more in IBAC Insights Issue 20.