Leading during COVID-19

IBAC CEO Marlo Baragwanath

By IBAC CEO Marlo Baragwanath

Within two months, almost to the day, of taking the helm at IBAC, I found myself having to manage the agency through an extraordinary period in response to the COVID-19 emergency. The sudden shift to having staff working from home was, while necessary, quite concerning and challenging. Once the issue of ensuring staff safety was dealt with, foremost in my mind was how the agency would cope with its entire workforce offsite. How would we continue our important work? This is an issue almost every organisation in Victoria has grappled with.

A more personal concern was how I would handle working from home. I have always appreciated the collegiality of an office environment and was worried I wouldn't get that kind of stimulation and engagement from home. And being only two months in, I was still establishing relationships and getting to know the teams. I can now say, three months after working remotely, I need not have been so concerned.

I realised quickly that the people at IBAC perform their roles extremely well. They are skilled and experienced practitioners who understand what they have to deliver, COVID-19 or no COVID-19. And apart from a few early tech-related glitches, it's been pretty much business as usual for IBAC as we got up to speed with effectively most of our work.

The energy and passion of teams has made it surprisingly easy to work from home and settle into my role. IBAC has a strong foundation and my keenest observation is that everyone who works here fundamentally believes in the agency's purpose. Their passion comes through in the way teams brief me about their work, and in the way they invite me to engage. That was clear to me when I started, and it's become more evident over time.

The past few months have consolidated my early thinking on IBAC's direction. I want to ensure we are an open and transparent organisation, to the extent we can be and it's appropriate for us to be as we maintain the integrity of our investigations. I'm committed to enhancing our interactions with stakeholders and building support for the agency so we can strengthen efforts to prevent and expose corruption and create change within the sectors we regulate.

Achieving this means engaging more with the public sector and Victoria Police to impart what our research and investigations tell us about corruption risks, and making sure our resources support them to manage the risks they inherently carry. It's also about ensuring our stakeholders recognise that IBAC is at the 'pointy end' of an entire integrity system that runs through the public sector; agencies need to strengthen their own internal capacity and controls to prevent corruption.

In addition, I want to focus on engaging more with the communities who interact with the public sector, including Victoria Police, and who may wish to file a complaint, so that our processes and legislative thresholds become easier to understand – I want to demystify IBAC.

I came to IBAC because I wanted to work for a purpose-driven organisation. My experience over the past six months has shown me how committed our teams are to affect change. I have seen what IBAC is capable of, and I look forward to seeing what the agency can achieve in a post-COVID world.