This month’s Corruption and Integrity Update considers the progress made towards the National-Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), including where money is being directed under the latest budget; the Royal Commission into Robodebt which has just commenced public hearings; recent Queensland Integrity Reforms; and a status update from the Queensland Auditor-General.
Joint Select Committee into the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bills
On 28 September 2022, the Senate and the House of Representatives established the Joint Select Committee to inquire into and report on the recently released NACC bills.
The Committee, chaired by Senator Linda White, has received 133 submissions from the public. Some submissions of note include:
We also note that concerns have been raised regarding the proposed powers of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to sign off on warrants as part of NACC investigations. The proposed legislation provides that commissioners seeking to access phone records must obtain a warrant from a judge or “nominated member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal”. Notwithstanding the concerns, the current legislation proposes the NACC will follow the same process that is required of existing law enforcement and integrity bodies, such as the AFP and Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI).
The Committee is due to report on its findings on or before 10 November 2022.
In September, the Federal Government announced the allocation of $262.6 million to the establishment of the NACC. The Federal Government’s 2022-2023 Budget, announced on 25 October 2022, provided welcome details on further budgetary details including:
We will continue to watch as more details relating to the upcoming NACC are confirmed.
On 14 October 2022, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the appointment of Ms Linda Waugh as the Queensland Integrity Commissioner, who will commence the role in December 2022 for a term of five-years.
On 14 October 2022, the Premier introduced two bills to implement integrity reforms and strengthen Queensland’s integrity bodies.
The legislative changes follow Professor Peter Coaldrake’s review of culture and accountability in the Queensland public sector, Kevin Yearbury’s 2021 strategic review of the Integrity Commissioner’s functions, and Peter Bridgman’s 2019 review of Queensland’s public employment laws.
The Integrity and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022:
The Public Sector Bill 2022, which implements the second stage of Mr Bridgman’s review, looks to improve employment security, respect and inclusion in the public sector and strengthen the independence of integrity bodies in Queensland. The Bill will also repeal the Public Service Act 2008 and replace it with a new public sector employment framework.
The proposed legislation is before the Economics and Governance Committee for consideration. The committee will report on the Bill by Friday 25 November 2022.
In August 2022, the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme, led by Catherine Holmes AC SC was established. The inquiry will examine:
The decisions made by those in positions of seniority will be the primary focus of the Royal Commission, with the final report due to be delivered to the Governor-General by 18 April 2023.
On 27 September 2022, the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme held its initial public hearing with the Commissioner and Senior Counsel Assisting making their opening statements. On 13 October 2022, the Commission held a directions hearing where the Counsel assisting acknowledged, and welcomed submissions received from people affected by, or involved with the Robodebt scheme.
The first public hearing will run from 31 October to 11 November 2022 and will focus on the establishment, design and implementation of the Robodebt Scheme.
On 31 October 2022, the 2022 Status of Auditor-General’s Recommendations report was tabled in Parliament.
The report includes reflections from the current Auditor-General’s five years in the role. His reflections include observations that ‘government is not meeting the public’s rising expectations that it is accountable, and transparent and acts with integrity’ and that some government entities ‘lack the systems or corporate knowledge to understand the reasons for past failings. In some instances, the fear of repeating past failures is resulting in entities missing opportunities to implement new systems and technologies.’
Across the 94 reports and 325 recommendations the Auditor-General has made since his appointment, the most common audit recommendations have included:
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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Daniel Maroske, Director
Angela Szczepanski, Director