An Integrity System for Australia
Australia’s current anti-corruption regime is not fit for purpose. There are too many gaps, poor coordination and a lack of resources across the government agencies to tackle corruption effectively. Much needs to be done to shine a light on deals in the dark, dirty money and unethical behaviour.
Australian Institute of International Affairs
…… one in 20 Australian public servants said in a survey last year that they had seen a colleague acting in a corrupt manner. This figure has doubled in the past three years. Moreover, a Griffith University survey has found strong public support for a national integrity commission, with two-thirds (67%) of Australians in favour of one.
The Conversation, 13 Dec 2018
To ensure Australia has a national, integrated, multi-agency integrity system with the independence, powers and resources needed to promote integrity and combat corruption.
The current problem
Our legal and administrative systems are not preventing or exposing corruption or serious misconduct in public services, government, members of parliament or their staff. This is due in part to largely unregulated political campaign financing, the reliance on self-regulation, the practice of secrecy in government contracting that obscures corrupt practice, a compliance culture (at best), limited rewards for exemplary ethical behaviour, the promotion of unethical officials on the basis that they bend to the government’s wishes and the huge disincentives of whistleblowing.
The reforms that are needed
1. A National Integrity System in which the principal agencies are the:
National Integrity Commission (new) | Office of the Australian Information Commission | Commonwealth Ombudsman | Whistleblower Protection Authority (new) | Australian National Audit Office. Integrity System agencies must:
- be proactive
- have the objective of embedding education about accountability and prevention of corruption in all aspects of their work
- have formal mechanisms for coordination and cooperation and fully communicate with one another
- make referrals to other agencies as appropriate
- have statutory independence from the executive and have its principal officers appointed by a bi-partisan proces
2. The Parliament and the Executive of Government must ensure that:
- the separation of powers between legislative, executive and judiciary remains intact while recognising that integrity institutions have to be independent of the executive
- information is made freely available, including business cases to support capital investments and program initiatives
- Integrity System agencies have the powers required and are appropriately resourced
- heads of Government departments refer matters of corruption to relevant Integrity System agencies
3. The establishment of a National Integrity Commission that:
- is independent and appointed by the governor general on the advice of the parliament
- has the investigative powers of a royal commission and can conduct public hearings
- has the ability to receive and refer complaints from the public and use its discretion as to how to best proceed, including own-motion powers
- can investigate criminal offencesand all forms of serious or systemic corruption, maladministration, deficiency in policy advice and incompetence in program management in any part of the public sector, including law enforcement agencies, parliamentarians and their staff and the executive of government
- can make recommendations and findings of fact, but not findings of corruption, and leaves questions of prosecution to the Director of Public Prosecutions
- can investigate the judiciary if directed by the Parliament to do so unless a Judicial Commission is established for this purpose (as provided for in the Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Act 2012)
4. The appointment of an Integrity Counsel to advise politicians and senior civil servants on ethical issues
5. A Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner who can investigate unethical behaviour by parliamentarians
6. A Governance Reform Commission that overviews the national integrity system/regime and regularly reviews all integrity agencies to consider how they might be improved in their individual and collective performance.
Other agencies in an Integrity System:
Department of Public Prosecutions | Public Service Commission | Australian Federal Police | Administrative Appeals Tribunal | Parliamentary committees | Integrity Counsel (new – modelled on Queensland Integrity Commissioner who advises parliamentarians and senior civil servants on ethical conduct) | Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner (new – to investigate breaches of ethics) | Governance Reform Commission (new – modelled on Queensland’s Electoral and Administrative Reform Commission)