Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
We have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions of the office of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.
Download a PDF copy here: ICAC FAQ (198 KB)
The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption is a law enforcement agency that has been established to identify and investigate corruption in public administration, and prevent or minimise corruption, misconduct and maladministration in public administration.
The Commissioner is independent and is not subject to the direction of any person in relation to any matter.
The Commissioner, the Honourable Bruce Lander QC, was appointed for a seven-year term commencing 1 September 2013. The Commissioner is a senior legal practitioner of more than 40 years’ standing and was a Justice of the Federal Court of Australia before resigning to take up his current position.
In December 2016, the Commissioner commenced the role of Judicial Conduct Commissioner which he will serve concurrently with his role as the ICAC.
The Commissioner and members of the staff of the Commissioner form a law enforcement body. The Commissioner has significant powers to investigate allegations of corruption in public administration, including powers under warrant to enter and search premises, seize and retain items and hold compulsory examinations.
The Commissioner’s functions include:
- to identify and investigate corruption in public administration
- to assist in identifying and dealing with misconduct and maladministration in public administration
- prevent or minimise corruption, misconduct and maladministration in public administration through education and evaluation of practices, policies and procedures.
The Commissioner can investigate conduct of a public officer and in some cases the conduct of a private individual, where the conduct raises a potential issue of corruption. Conduct of a private individual that can be investigated includes bribery or corruption of a public officer, a threat against a public officer or aiding and abetting a public officer to commit corruption.
The Commissioner is held accountable through a number of measures including the requirement to prepare an Annual Report that is laid before both Houses of Parliament. The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012 (ICAC Act) also provides for an independent person to conduct an annual review of the Commissioner’s powers, practices and procedures.
The Commissioner is required to publish standard operating procedures governing the exercise of powers by investigators for the purposes of an investigation under the ICAC Act. These standard operating procedures will be available for inspection by members of the public on the Commissioner’s website and at the Office for Public Integrity.
Yes. The Commissioner is required to deliver an education program aimed at preventing or minimising corruption, misconduct and maladministration in public administration. A list of education resources and events can be found on the Commissioner’s website. The Commissioner can also conduct an evaluation of the practices, policies and procedures of inquiry agencies and public authorities to advance comprehensive and effective systems for preventing or minimising corruption, misconduct and maladministration in public administration.
The Commissioner has a number of powers, including powers to:
- appoint staff, including investigators;
- initiate and conduct investigations into corruption in public administration;
- refer matters relating to misconduct and maladministration to inquiry agencies or public authorities for further action;
- exercise the powers of an inquiry agency;
- issue directions and guidance to inquiry agencies and public authorities;
- request the Auditor-General to examine accounts;
- make recommendations to inquiry agencies and public authorities;
- make a report to Parliament.
Can the Commissioner investigate matters that occurred before the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012 came into operation?
Yes. The Commissioner’s powers under the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012 can be exercised in relation to conduct that occurred before the Act came into force.
An investigation into corruption in public administration can be triggered by:
- a complaint made by a member of the public to the Office for Public Integrity;
- a report made by an inquiry agency, public authority or public officer to the Office for Public Integrity;
- the Commissioner acting on his own initiative;
- the Attorney-General reporting a matter directly to the Commissioner.
The Commissioner will have absolute discretion to investigate or not investigate a particular matter, or to refer it to another agency.
The Office for Public Integrity will assess every report of alleged corruption received and determine whether an investigation is required, or refer the matter with a recommendation to the Commissioner. The Commissioner will then decide whether to investigate, refer the matter elsewhere, or take no further action.
Investigations into corruption in public administration conducted by the Commissioner will be conducted in private, as is currently the case with criminal investigations undertaken by SA Police. It must be remembered that a person involved in an investigation may not have been charged with any criminal offence and might only be assisting with a line of inquiry.
All examinations conducted by the Commissioner as part of an investigation must also be held in private.
The Commissioner may make a public statement in connection with a particular matter if, in the Commissioner’s opinion, it is appropriate to do so, weighing the public interest against the prejudicial effect upon a person’s reputation. In some cases, a public statement might be made to benefit the investigation or allay public concern. The Commissioner is required to consider whether making a public statement might adversely affect a potential prosecution.
Yes. Any person who has been summonsed to appear as a witness at an examination and who fails to appear at that examination or who refuses or fails to answer a question at an examination commits an offence. The maximum penalty for such an offence is a fine of $20,000 or imprisonment for four years. A person who appears as a witness is in contempt of the Commissioner if he or she refuses or fails to answer a question that he or she is required to answer by the examiner. The examiner may apply to the Supreme Court for the person to be dealt with in relation to the contempt by the Supreme Court of South Australia.
Inquiry agencies, public officers and public authorities have obligations under the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012 (ICAC Act) to report suspected corruption, misconduct and maladministration in public administration. The minimum reporting obligations are identified in the Directions and Guidelines issued under the ICAC Act.
The Office for Public Integrity (OPI) will assess your complaint or report and make a decision as to whether the matter requires investigation and who should investigate it. Alternatively, it will refer the matter with a recommendation to the Commissioner about how it should be dealt with.
The Commissioner is not bound by the assessment and recommendation of the OPI and may assess a matter himself and deal with it in accordance with his own assessment.
Yes. The Office for Public Integrity will receive anonymous complaints and assess them in the usual way. However, if you wish to remain anonymous, you must understand that if the information you provide is not sufficient for the Office for Public Integrity to make a proper assessment of the matter, the Office for Public Integrity will not be able to contact you for further information. This may mean that your complaint will not be progressed.
The Office for Public Integrity and the Commissioner’s staff must not disclose information you have provided in your complaint except in certain circumstances. Examples of when information may have to be disclosed include for the purpose of the administration or enforcement of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012, for the purposes of criminal proceedings, or for the performance of the functions of the Commissioner under legislation. Such information can include your identity and personal details as well as details of the complaint itself.
If you are making a complaint as a whistleblower under the Whistleblowers Protection Act 1993, then the details relating to your identity will remain confidential except where it is required to be disclosed to ensure a proper investigation. If you are unsure of whether your complaint falls within the whistleblowers’ regime, please contact the Office for Public Integrity or seek legal advice.
When making the complaint, provide as much information as possible, including:
- The names and positions of the parties involved.
- The names and contact details of private citizens and companies and how they are involved.
- The specific allegations, including when the alleged conduct occurred, why you believe corruption, misconduct or maladministration is involved and how and when you became aware of the matter.
- Names and contact details of any witnesses.
- Whether you have contacted other agencies about the matter.
- Details or copies of any documentary evidence you may have.
If you identify yourself we can inform you about the action (if any action is taken) in respect of the matter.