Corruption and Integrity Update – Updates from the CCC, and the release of the final report from the Coaldrake Review

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This month’s edition of the Corruption and Integrity Update considers new corruption prevention resources released by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC); the CCC’s call for submissions on influencing practices in Queensland; and the CCC’s release of its investigation into allegations of disclosure of confidential information at the Integrity Commissioner. We also dive into the finals report arising from the Coaldrake Review released on 28 June 2022 and the Investigation Workshop released on 4 July 2022.

Crime and Corruption Commission – New prevention resources

Earlier this month, the CCC released three new resources that highlight the importance of safeguarding public resources from exploitation and theft. These resources follow a corruption audit of seven agencies conducted by the CCC in 2021 to ascertain how effectively they had:

  1. dealt with allegations of corruption involving misuse of public resources;
  2. reduced the incidence of corruption; and
  3. minimised the risk of fuel consumption fraud.

The CCC has also recommended that agencies may need to strengthen policies relating to the consumption of fuel due to the massive increases in fuel prices. To assist, CCC has released a standalone guide to assist agencies in developing programs to prevent bulk fuel theft.

Crime and Corruption Commission – Call for submissions on influencing practices in Queensland

On 17 June 2022 the CCC called for public submissions on a range of topics relating to influence, decision-making, and transparency in Queensland.

The CCC’s discussion paper indicated that access to government decision-makers was a key driver for individuals and organisations seeking to influence legislation, policy, and the awarding of contracts and grant by the Government. The CCC referred to research suggesting influence can be sought in a number of ways including political donations, gifts and other benefits, the leveraging of personal and political associations and the use of registered lobbyists. The CCC has repeatedly expressed concerns that these practices may increase the risk of corrupt practices and an erosion of public confidence in government.

The CCC commenced an intelligence investigation in 2021 to examine the practices used by the private sector to access government decision-makers and influence policy, ultimately finding that there has been a surge in lobbying activities in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery substantially contributing to this.

The CCC is calling for submissions from the public on key areas relating to influence and access in Queensland, including:

  1. fairness and equality in access to decision-makers;
  2. post-separation arrangements;
  3. management of conflicts of interest;
  4. consulting and lobbying;
  5. direct employment arrangements; and
  6. types of outcomes being lobbied.

Submissions close on 15 July 2022. Read more about the call for submissions on the CCC website.

Crime and Corruption Commission – ‘Investigation Workshop’

The CCC recently tabled the ‘Investigation Workshop’ final report, being its investigation into allegations of disclosure of confidential information at the Integrity Commissioner following an alleged ‘raid’ and seizure laptops. The CCC concluding that:

  1. there was no evidence that a Public Service Commission employee had disclosed confidential information;
  2. the circumstances in which the laptops were retrieved were entirely normal, and did not support the Integrity Commissioner’s descriptions of ‘raid’ and ‘seize’; and
  3. there were no obvious concerns about the security of information held by the Integrity commissioner.

Recommendations for the ongoing suitability of information security arrangements were also made by the CCC.

Coaldrake Review

Professor Peter Coaldrake’s final report into culture and accountability in the Queensland public sector was released on 28 June 2022. The final report entitled ‘Let the sunshine in’ focuses on the integrity of the public sector and presents recommendations aimed towards untangling the ‘congested and complex web’ of anti-corruption bodies. The Coaldrake Review was prompted by what are described as a number of controversies and issues that ‘go to matters of trust and to debates about the independence, transparency, integrity, accountability and impartiality’ of the public sector.

The 100+ page final report details significant background context to Queensland’s integrity framework, before making a series of recommendations for improving that framework going forward. Key recommendations include:

  1. the independence of the position of the Auditor-General be strengthened and accorded the status of an Officer of the Parliament;
  2. certain Cabinet materials be proactively released and published online within 30 business days;
  3. lobbying regulation be strengthened through a requirement to register all professionals offering paid lobbying services for third parties and explicit prohibition of lobbyists ‘dual hatting’ as political campaigners;
  4. the establishment of a technology-driven, single clearing house for complaints;
  5. complaints against senior public sector employees devolved by the CCC to include ongoing oversight by the Public Service Commission and an independent Director-General;
  6. the implementation of a QLD mandatory data breach reporting regime;
  7. the immediate review of Public Interest Disclosure legislation;
  8. the Ombudsman be provided with investigative powers for complaints against private organisations carrying out functions on behalf of the government; and
  9. fixed term, five year contracts (unaligned to the electoral cycle) for D-G’s and CEOs.

The Queensland government has committed to accepting all recommendations stemming from the Coaldrake Review and has identified relevant individuals to oversee the implementation of the recommendation.

Stay tuned as we shed more light on the contents of the report over the coming days and weeks.

 


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