The Performance of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Victorian Inspectorate

Wednesday, 7th Feb

WELLS (Rowville) (10:33:24) — I would like to speak on the report, The Performance of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Victorian Inspectorate — 2016–17. As chair of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Committee, I am pleased to speak to the fifth report of our committee. Under the Parliamentary Committees Act 2003, the committee has the function of monitoring the performance of IBAC and the Victorian Inspectorate. Members of the house will remember that in November last year I tabled the framework for monitoring the performance of IBAC. As I mentioned, one of the duties of the committee is to monitor the performance of IBAC and the Victorian Inspectorate, and of course you have to have a framework to make an assessment against. The committee appointed Professor A. J. Brown to assist us to put together a framework, which is one of the first in the world. It is difficult, obviously, to judge the performance of an anti-corruption body anywhere in the world as it is to judge the Victorian Inspectorate and to understand how they are performing year on year. That work was groundbreaking, and it has been picked up by a number of overseas bodies which are looking at how we actually put that framework together.

From the outset, I would like to acknowledge both the IBAC commissioner, Mr Stephen O’Bryan, QC, and the inspector, Mr Robin Brett, QC, for their important working in establishing their organisations as essential parts of Victoria’s anti-corruption and integrity system. In particular, under Commissioner O’Bryan’s leadership, IBAC has become a mature anti-corruption agency with a reputation for exposing corruption in ways that have led to significant reforms in the Victorian public sector. IBAC has also begun to play a leading role in informing and educating the public about corruption prevention, notably with its first large-scale community anti-corruption campaign. As the statutory terms of both the commissioner, Stephen O’Bryan, and the inspector, Robin Brett, expired on 31 December 2017, I would like to congratulate them and wish them well in their future endeavours. The committee has already met with the new commissioner and the new Victorian inspector and it looks forward to working with them over their term.

The report gives an overview of the achievements of IBAC and the Victorian Inspectorate during the year as well as the challenges they faced in identifying, investigating, exposing and preventing corruption and misconduct in Victoria and in ensuring compliance with the law. IBAC’s achievements include the assessment of allegations in a timely fashion, the greater number of investigations it undertook and the completion of important operations and inquiries. These exposed significant corruption in some parts of the public sector as well as misconduct and corruption risks in the corrections system and Victoria Police.

IBAC has also expanded its education functions, which the committee sees as a very important role, particularly through its very successful community anti-corruption campaign, which used a wide range of media channels. In addition, IBAC plans to make greater use of digital media and videos to educate Victorians about the harm of corruption and how to prevent it.

IBAC faced a number of challenges, including with its current electronic case management system, which it is planning to replace, which is good news from the committee’s point of view. IBAC is also keen to enhance support for protected disclosure coordinators so that whistleblowers have the confidence to report wrongdoing in the public sector. The IBAC commissioner has also emphasised that a follow-the-dollar power would enable IBAC to better investigate public sector corruption, which often involves complex private sector financial arrangements, so it is similar to the powers that the Auditor-General has.

I would like to thank my committee colleagues for their cooperative and bipartisan approach to the preparation of this report: my deputy, the member for Footscray; the member for Prahran, the member for Gippsland South and the member for Mordialloc in this house; and Jaclyn Symes and Simon Ramsay. Finally, I would like to thank the secretariat for their hard work: Ms Sandy Cook, executive officer; Dr Stephen James, research officer; and Ms Justine Donohue, administrative officer. I commend this report to the Parliament.