Message from the Commissioner - September 2021

The Honourable Robert Redlich QC

Welcome to the September issue of IBAC Insights.

In our last edition, I mentioned as part of the Victorian Government’s budget package, IBAC secured additional funding of $20 million over four years. This welcome and needed funding is already being directed to recruit additional team members to assess, review and investigate allegations of serious public sector corruption and police misconduct, and to increase resourcing for our important prevention and education, and legal and compliance work.

In recent months we have advertised a number of these contract roles for a variety of disciplines across the organisation. I am pleased to report our recruitment is well advanced and we welcomed the first of our new colleagues last month.

A plan for the future

A critical part of ensuring the best outcomes from new funding and resources is updating our strategic plan. The IBAC Plan 2021-25 has been created in consultation with key stakeholders and employees and will help guide our allocation of resources and efforts to focus on key risk areas of corruption and police misconduct over the next four years. It sets a strategic framework for achieving our vision of a public sector and police that acts with integrity for all Victorians. I look forward to sharing the final plan more broadly in the coming months.

New research

Earlier this month IBAC released its latest research report Corruption risks associated with government funded human services delivered by community service organisations (CSOs).

The report reveals key corruption risks CSOs can encounter, including those associated with procurement and contract management, conflicts of interest, cash handling, false or inaccurate reporting practices and misuse of sensitive information. The potential impacts of corruption in this sector are wide reaching, particularly when it could jeopardise services delivered to vulnerable people and communities.

Across Victoria, CSOs play a critical role in delivering human services on behalf of the Victorian Government and generally perform exemplary services for the community despite sometimes experiencing resource and capability constraints, including in response to the added challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our report and accompanying information sheet identify key prevention and detection strategies for CSOs, their boards, and government departments and agencies to implement to ensure corruption risks are mitigated, including maintaining sound governance and risk management systems, strong conflict of interest frameworks, information security management, procurement practices, and regular staff training to support the identification and reporting of misconduct and corruption risks.

Departments, and other state and local government funding agencies, need to work with CSOs to strengthen their oversight, compliance monitoring and auditing regimes, helping to build capacity across the CSO sector to prevent corruption and safeguard the expenditure of vital public funds for the benefit of our community. This responsibility extends to the boards of CSOs as well.

IBAC will continue to engage with key stakeholders across the Victorian public service and the CSO sector to raise awareness of the risks identified in the report and to support corruption prevention.

Operation Ord

A significant operational development since our last edition of IBAC Insights has been the completion of prosecutions arising from Operation Ord, with the sentencing of former Department of Education and Training (DET) Director Mr Nino Napoli and his cousin Mr Carlo Squillacioti in the County Court of Victoria in July.

Operation Ord, which commenced in 2015, focussed on allegations that senior department officers misappropriated funds from DET’s budget through false and inflated invoicing, as well as arranging payment of inappropriate expenses including excessive hospitality, travel and personal items.

As part of Operation Ord, IBAC held public hearings between April and June 2015, and tabled a special report to Parliament in April 2016. IBAC made a range of recommendations to DET to improve its policies, systems and practices to prevent corruption. DET's reports on its implementation of these recommendations are available on the IBAC website.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all IBAC employees who have contributed to this major operation over the last six years. In addition to the prosecution outcomes, Operation Ord has led to significant reforms to prevent corruption and strengthen integrity within DET and across the Victorian public sector more broadly.

A focus on understanding and accessibility

At IBAC, we rely on the trust of the Victorian community to perform our role to keep the public sector and Victoria Police accountable. In practice this means we rely on community members to know about IBAC and contact us about suspected corruption and police misconduct.

We recognise the challenges faced by people making a complaint about suspected corruption or police misconduct, whether these challenges arise from social, economic, or cultural factors, or the perennial challenge of speaking up. To help address some of these barriers, IBAC is developing a Focus Communities Strategy to improve how we interact with Victorians who experience vulnerability or marginalisation, and may face particular risks around corruption and police misconduct. 

Over recent months IBAC has met with a wide range of public sector and community stakeholders to inform the development of the strategy. These included other integrity agencies and organisations that promote the rights and interests of communities who are diverse or experience vulnerability or marginalisation. Key themes arising from the consultations included that there is limited awareness of IBAC, our role and jurisdiction, opportunities to improve IBAC's accessibility for focus communities and the need to build relationships and trust with focus communities and their representatives.

While the development of the strategy is nearing completion, we continue to look for opportunities to better engage and inform our diverse Victorian community. To support our commitment to improving accessibility, we recently translated both our How to report police misconduct video and complaint form into 21 languages.

I look forward to sharing the completed strategy in the months ahead.

Features in this edition

Central to a well-functioning public service is its ability to maintain community trust and confidence, and key to this is integrity in the decision-making process. Human rights are a central part of ethical decision making in government, particularly through the application of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. This edition of IBAC Insights features a podcast with Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Ro Allen and Christine Howlett, IBAC's Executive Director Prevention & Communication, discussing the important work of the Commission and the links between human rights and public sector integrity.

You will also be able to read a piece by Professor Adam Graycar and Dr Allen Yates on perceptions of corruption in NSW local government, which discusses consistent findings with IBAC's recently published Corruption and integrity: Perceptions of Victorian local government employees report and the multifaceted nature of corruption and mitigating its risks.

New Deputy Commissioners appointed

In the last few months we have also welcomed the appointment of two new Deputy Commissioners,  Kylie Kilgour, who has been with us since January 2021 in an acting capacity, and, in recognition of IBAC's significant and ever-growing workload, the Government appointed Stephen Farrow as a third Deputy Commissioner. They both have extensive experience within the justice and legal fields and are highly valued additions to our team.

Thank you to all our contributors for this edition of IBAC Insights.

The Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC
IBAC Commissioner

Read more in IBAC Insights Issue 29.