Author: Nyman Gibson Miralis
Keywords: ICAC, corruption public sector, public officials, whistleblowers, uncover corruption.
The NSW Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC), active since 1988, was established in order to prevent and deal with acts of corruption in the public service. As such, it performs an essential social function, and it is vital that the ICAC continues to operate to maximum efficiency now and into the future.
What is the ICAC’s purpose and key functions?
As set out in the Independent Commission against Corruption Act 1988 (NSW) and the subsequent Independent Commission against Corruption Amendment Act 2015, the purpose of the ICAC is to:
- Investigate and uncover corruption.
- Prevent further corruption.
- Provide education about corruption, including its prevention.
In particular, the ICAC targets serious and systemic corruption which has been committed by public officials.
Generally, the ICAC relies on the reporting of potentially corrupt behaviours by members of the public who are acting as whistleblowers, although it also receives referrals from the NSW Electoral Commission.
As set out in the guide to Reporting Corruption to the NSW ICAC, it is encouraged for potential whistleblowers to report suspected corrupt behaviour to the relevant public sector organisation in the first instance.
However, if this does not yield a satisfactory result, those who believe on reasonable grounds that they have observed certain actions in public officials are encouraged to provide relevant information to the ICAC.
Those behaviours include:
- Corrupt conduct
- Serious and substantial waste.
- Government information contravention.
- Pecuniary interest breaches.
Once in receipt of such information, the ICAC’s Assessment Panel may determine whether to commence a formal investigation and ultimately an inquiry.
Alternatively, the ICAC may obtain advice from the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether individuals ought to be prosecuted, or recommend internal disciplinary actions within organisations the subject of a complaint.
What are the ICAC’s objectives?
In August 2016, the ICAC released the ICAC Strategic Plan 2016-2020 which sets out its key objectives for future years.
These objectives are:
- The exposure of corruption
Public confidence in the operation of public agencies and entities requires a belief in the transparency of their inner workings. Accordingly, the ICAC has identified that it will continue to expose corruption by:
- Detecting and investigating apparently corrupt conduct.
- Identifying behaviours or conduct which permits systemic or widespread corruption.
- Ensuring that investigations are conducted according to best practices.
- Facilitating a complaints handling service which is efficient and effective.
- Maintaining cooperative relationships and appropriate alliances with other agencies to ensure that investigations are properly conducted and future corruption prevented.
- The prevention of corruption
In addition to exposing corruption which has already occurred, one of the ICAC’s key objectives is to prevent the recurrence of corrupt activities. The ICAC’s stated objective in this regard includes the following strategies:
- Encouraging government cooperation in addressing corruption risks and behaviours.
- Requesting public Authorities to review internal practices and procedures, with a view to minimising the incidences of corrupt behaviours.
- Raising community awareness of what constitutes corruption and the ability of members of the public to report corrupt behaviours and conduct.
In order for the ICAC’s role to be taken seriously, it is essential that it be completely free of any suspicions of internally corrupt conduct. Accordingly, one of the ICAC’s stated strategic objectives is to ensure its own accountability.
This is intended to be achieved by:
- Strict compliance with laws, required procedures and regulatory frameworks.
- Ongoing public reporting about the ICAC’s work, ensuring that public scrutiny can take place.
- Ensuring that the public is kept aware of ICAC developments, including via a commitment to maintaining an up-to-July 2017 website and ongoing publication of investigation reports.
- Providing appropriate and relevant reporting to the ICAC Inspector and the Parliamentary Committee on the ICAC. The Inspector ensures that ICAC duly complies with applicable legislation, and deals independently with any claims of corruption or misconduct made against the ICAC itself. Broadly, the ICAC is answerable to state parliament, and is audited regularly by the NSW Auditor General to ensure appropriately maintained financial reports. Finally, both the State and Commonwealth Ombudsman departments review communication records for any inappropriate conduct.
- Organisational objectives
Finally, the ICAC’s remaining strategic objective is to ensure that the organisation itself continues to improve. It is intended that this objective will be met by:
- Providing a workplace that is “safe, equitable, productive and satisfying”.
- Maintaining exemplary governance and corporate infrastructure.
- Pursuing an ongoing commitment to improvement, excellence and knowledge sharing.
- Monitoring agency performance with a focus on work quality and efficacy of resource management.
It is anticipated that the outcomes of the above four objectives will be reported on in the ICAC’s annual reports going forward.
The ICAC is an essential component of the NSW public system, focused on preventing and eradicating corruption amongst public bodies. In order to ensure that the ICAC continues to operate at peak efficiency, it has recently published a number of strategic objectives. It is intended that the implementation of these strategic imperatives will ensure that ICAC remains an effective and independent anti-corruption tool.
Nyman Gibson Miralis specialise in all aspects of corruption and ICAC-related investigations. If you require assistance, contact one of our expert criminal defence lawyers