Corruption and Integrity Update – Coaldrake interim report in the Queensland public sector released

27 April 2022
Daniel Maroske, Director, Brisbane Angela Szczepanski, Director, Brisbane

With the CCC Commission of Inquiry and the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Office of the Independent Assessor ongoing, there has been a noticeable absence of public releases by the CCC and OIA of late. Notably, however, Professor Peter Coaldrake AO released his Interim Report of the Review of culture and accountability in the Queensland public sector (Interim Report) on 21 April 2022.

The Interim Report sets out a great deal of historical context with respect to the Queensland public sector before setting out some preliminary observations regarding public sector capabilities, ministerial staff and lobbying.

Public sector capabilities

With respect to public sector capabilities, Professor Coaldrake noted that “the role of the public sector in recent generations has been weakened by the rising influence of ministerial offices and widespread use of external consultants”. On review, Professor Coaldrake found that while it may have been the intention of the Government to engage external consultants to address cost pressures, he found that in reality the opposite was true. That is, skilled public sector employees “walk out the door of government and step across the street to assume new roles in leading professional advisory firms”. This has led to a skills gap across the public sector.

Ministerial staff

As to ministerial staff, Professor Coaldrake highlighted the perceived overreach of ministerial staff and found that there was a suggestion of an erosion of the division between “the protective instincts of staffers and public servants’ obligations of impartiality”. He also recognised that this was not an issue unique to Queensland.

Professor Coaldrake noted that the next phase of the review will consider ensuring that the Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff Members “has teeth and is observed”.

Lobbyists

In his observations regarding lobbyists, Professor Coaldrake found that the lobbyist register is not achieving its desired purpose, and that many people who are performing lobbying activities do not fall within the narrow legislative framework which regulates such activities. It is estimated that registered lobbyists represent about 20% of the total people involved in lobbying. Professor Coaldrake also noted that the media has suggested that lobbyists may operate outside the regulations by providing ‘consultancy services’ to Government.

The Interim Report makes no recommendations but does highlight a strong resistance to add to the “already congested and complex web of integrity bodies” in Queensland. Professor Coaldrake has indicated that the final report will make recommendations aimed at improving synergies and bringing clarity to Queensland’s integrity system with respect to the issues outlined above as well as:

  • the functions of the Office of the Independent Assessor and Information Commissioner;
  • the efficacy of oversight by parliamentary committees;
  • frameworks for the appointment of statutory officers; and
  • the proposed review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (QLD).

Written submissions are due to the review by 16 May 2022. The final report will be handed down in June 2022.

 

At Gadens, we have extensive experience assisting clients in responding to both CCC and OIA investigations and hearings.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Daniel Maroske, Director or Angela Szczepanski, Director should you require any assistance in matters involving the CCC/OIA or if you would like to arrange a presentation on investigations and hearings with your organisation.

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Authored by:

Daniel Maroske, Director
Angela Szczepanski, Director

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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