Message from the Commissioner - June 2021

The Honourable Robert Redlich QC

Welcome to the June edition of IBAC Insights. Since our last edition we have been busy working to complete a range of investigations and I have presented to a public hearing as part of the Parliamentary Integrity and Oversight Committee's (IOC) inquiry into the education and prevention functions of Victoria's integrity agencies.

Unfortunately, due to the recent COVID outbreak we were required to postpone the public hearings on Operation Esperance. Completing investigations in a timely manner is important in order to minimise the risk institutional failings identified in an investigation are repeated. The second half of this year, COVID permitting, will see us catch-up on this work.

The completion of an investigation is of course only the first step in a long process before the benefits of the investigations are fully realised. Critical work that follows including preparation of evidence, coordination of the natural justice process, engagement with key stakeholders on findings and learnings, and ultimately monitoring the implementation of recommendations is all critically important work in our efforts to prevent and expose public sector corruption and police misconduct.

State Government budget

As part of the Victorian Government’s recent budget package, IBAC received additional funding of $20 million over four years. In addition, and ahead of the budget, IBAC received $5 million over four years to assume a compliance and reporting function in relation to Victoria Police’s registration and management of human sources.

The additional funding will be directed to increase our capacity to manage the critical work we do to review matters we have referred onto other agencies to investigate, increase resourcing to our prevention and education work and to recruit much needed additional investigators.

While we did not secure our entire funding requests, this additional funding is welcomed as recognition of the important work we do now and will do into the future.

As Commissioner, one of my most important roles is to ensure IBAC has the powers and resources required to fulfil its legislative obligations. As calls on the organisation to do more to expose and prevent corruption and police misconduct continue to grow, additional funding will be required in coming years.

Our approach to Prevention & Education

IBAC corruption prevention and education functions are a critical part of our work to improve integrity across the public sector, including Victoria Police.

Our activities to expose corruption - including investigations, reviews, research and strategic intelligence analysis - are the foundation upon which our prevention work is built. This evidenced-based approach helps to inform the community and the public sector on what corruption is, how to prevent it and why it is important to report suspected public sector corruption and police misconduct.

A crucial role in our corruption prevention work is to bring together key community and public sector stakeholders to raise awareness of corruption and police misconduct issues and risks, and to share information on prevention measures to inform improvements to policies, systems and practices.

Over the last few months we have held a range of forums to help inform the public sector and broader Victorian community. In May at Law Week, Deputy Commissioners David Wolf and Kylie Kilgour hosted a webinar Exposing corruption – how IBAC handles corruption complaints. Over 170 people tuned in to hear about how to make a complaint, how complaints are actioned and how investigations are launched.

Our annual Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Forum and a Corruption Prevention & Integrity Insights Forum, were both held over the last month. The high levels of participation and interaction across these events tells us that there is a great appetite for these types of events and stakeholders value the insights generated.

These events would not have been possible, or as successful, without the contribution by our partner integrity agencies including the Victorian Ombudsman, the Local Government Inspectorate and the Victorian Public Sector Commission, as well as presenters from the Local Government Victoria, Department of Education, Department of Justice and Community Service and Kingston City Council. Thank you all for your insight and support.

At IBAC we recognise that we are part of Victoria’s overall integrity system, and our work to prevent corruption and build integrity across the Victorian public sector is amplified through collaboration and coordination with our partner integrity agencies and the public sector.

The development of targeted stakeholder resources is also central to our prevention and education approach. In this edition of IBAC Insights, we have released our latest Perceptions of corruption reports that provide insight into state government and local government employees' perceptions of corruption and integrity within their organisations.

To help share and explore the insights from these reports you can listen to a podcast with IBAC's Deputy Commissioner David Wolf and MAV CEO Kerry Thomson and read the infographic that highlights the key findings from the reports.

Police oversight

IBAC's independent oversight of Victoria Police is another vital part of our role. Investigations are often the public face of this work but IBAC's prevention activities are equally important, including research and education initiatives.

IBAC also reviews the outcomes of certain Victoria Police investigations. Some of these reviews are routine, others are sensitive and complex.

Reviews are an important accountability tool – we assess if matters referred to Victoria Police have been investigated fairly and thoroughly. IBAC's reviews result in actions to improve outcomes for complainants, as well as recommendations for Victoria Police to strengthen its policies and procedures to address systemic police misconduct issues and risks.

The Victorian Government recently released its response to the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants (RCMPI) and the 2018 IBAC Committee Report.

Several recommendations were made that require IBAC to establish a new compliance and reporting function in relation to Victoria Police's registration and management of human sources. While we are waiting for the legislation to be drafted, we have started to prepare for implementation of these recommendations.

In addition, the Government has announced the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) will lead a systemic review of Victoria's police oversight system to address a recommendation by the RCMPI and respond to the 2018 IBAC Committee Report.

The DJCS review will begin with an options paper, and as foreshadowed in the Government's response, IBAC will be a key part of the consultation process. We look forward to contributing to this important review.

The intention to ensure that Victoria has a robust and accountable system of police oversight, which places a stronger focus on the needs of complainants and victims of police misconduct, is laudable and consistent with IBAC's independent police oversight role. However, IBAC has for some years highlighted the resource challenges we face in fulfilling our functions to expose and prevent police misconduct and public sector corruption.

Corrections Special Report

Last week we tabled to Parliament a Special Report into the corrections sector. Over the course of many investigations and significant research IBAC has uncovered serious systemic corruption issues facing the corrections sector.

The corrections sector is an essential part of Victoria's justice system and its employees perform an important and challenging role. They work with people who are dealing with a range of complex issues, as well as people who can be highly practised at manipulating and grooming others to engage in criminal conduct.

The special report finds that Victoria's prison system faces ongoing corruption risks and highlights the pressing need to address problematic workplace cultures, including corrections staff covering up corrupt conduct.

The report has a focus on prevention and education, and recommends ways the corrections sector can strengthen its policies, systems and practices to prevent wrongdoing.

Preventing corruption is essential to achieving the aim of rehabilitating offenders and keeping Victoria safe.

In response to these and other IBAC investigations, the Department of Justice and Community Safety and Corrections Victoria have already taken actions to address corruption risks, however there is a critical need for further action, as the matters highlighted in IBAC's report are not isolated incidents.

Importantly, this special report represents the first phase of IBAC's work to expose significant corruption risks and identify solutions across the corrections sector. The next phase will be a joint initiative between IBAC and the Victorian Ombudsman aimed at exposing and preventing systemic misconduct and corruption.

Finally, I would like to welcome IBAC's new Executive Director for Legal, Assessment & Review and Compliance, Stacey Killackey. Stacey is an experienced lawyer who has been practising since 2000, including a stint in community legal practice and most recently working with a state government department. I can already see that Stacey will be a great addition to the Executive team, to her Legal Assessment & Review and Compliance Division as well as to the progress of the broader organisation.

The Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC
IBAC Commissioner

Read more in IBAC Insights Issue 28.