This month’s edition of the Corruption and Integrity Update considers the recent parliamentary oversight hearings conducted by the Legal Affairs and Safety Committee (Committee) into the Queensland Ombudsman and the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC), as well as setting out a high-level overview of the most recent Corruption Allegations Data Dashboard (CADD) released by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC). Finally, we consider where to next for the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
On 9 May 2022, the Committee held an oversight hearing to profile the Queensland Ombudsman. Mr Anthony Reilly, the current Queensland Ombudsman, appeared before the Committee and provided an update on the functions of the Ombudsman. Mr Reilly advised that in the 2021/2022 financial year, the Ombudsman received 10,758 contacts and 7,351 complaints, of which 166 were investigated.
The Committee took particular interest in complaints arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, with 178 complaints made about Queensland Health, and further complaints relating to the administrative actions of corrective services during the pandemic and hotel quarantine. The significant number of complaints relating to Queensland Health has resulted in a dialogue between Queensland Health and the Ombudsman and the implementation of various recommendations.
Mr Reilly also revealed that there had been a significant increase in complaints relating to human rights, noting that this was likely due to new complaint reporting processes arising out of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld).
On 23 May 2022, the Committee held an oversight hearing to profile the OIC. Ms Rachel Rangihaeata, the Information Commissioner, Mr Paxton Booth, the Privacy Commissioner, and Ms Kate Sheppard, the Acting Right to Information Commissioner, appeared before the Committee.
The Committee examined resourcing within the OIC against the uplift in demands on staff and the resulting delays, particularly when working with external agencies. In acknowledging the challenges in working with external agencies, the OIC indicated that support is provided to external agencies by liaising with information and assistance teams, providing targeted training, and analysing trends to target resources and maximise impact.
The OIC also noted that a written submission was not provided to the Coaldrake Review. Rather, the executive team met with Professor Coaldrake to discuss key trends and protocols in depth. While the OIC indicated to the Committee that privacy and appropriate data handling remains a concern and priority in ongoing operations, the larger priority remains issues affecting trust and confidence in the Government, suggesting that RTI officers consistently act independently of government.
The CCC recently released the latest version of the CADD to incorporate data up to 31 March 2022. The updated dashboard shows 1,965 allegations in the first quarter of 2022, which represents a decrease in from the 2,518 allegations in the final quarter of 2021. Not surprisingly, allegations were highest in public facing departments, including Queensland Health, Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs, Education, and Queensland Corrective Services. The focus on Queensland Health appears to mirror the experience of the Queensland Ombudsman.
The CADD also revealed that failure of duty, misuse of confidential information, and misuse of authority continue to be the most significant areas of alleged misconduct.
Following the recent Federal election result, the creation of a National Anti-Corruption Commission is squarely back on the agenda, with Labor having committed to introduce supporting legislation this year. While the Government is yet to announce any further details relating to the form and function of the commission, we anticipate the proposed body will draw on previous draft bills before parliament, with both public hearings and retrospective application. Watch this space for further details!
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Daniel Maroske, Director
Angela Szczepanski, Director
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.