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ICAC update - March 2021
Investigation into claims made for the Country Members Accommodation Allowance
Commissioner Vanstone issued a public statement on 7 September, in which she announced she would continue the investigation commenced by her predecessor the Hon. Bruce Lander QC, into claims made by Members of Parliament for the Country Members Accommodation Allowance.
On 19 February 2021 the Commissioner issued another public statement to inform the public that charges had been laid against Mr Fraser Ellis MP. Mr Ellis has been charged with 23 counts of Deception contrary to s 139 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act (SA). The Commissioner’s investigation into claims made by other Members continues and she will provide a further update when it is appropriate to do so.
Parliamentary committee appearance
On 10 December 2020 Commissioner Vanstone made her first appearance before the Parliamentary Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee. You can read a transcript of the Commissioner’s evidence on the Parliament’s website.
Complaints, reports, referrals and investigations
In February 2021, the OPI received 84 complaints and reports about public administration and 141 complaints and reports about South Australia Police. There were 24 active corruption investigations, one active maladministration investigation and 20 matters were referred to an agency for investigation and action. Operational statistics are reported yearly in the ICAC / OPI annual report and also reported month-to-month on the ICAC website.
To assist the community in understanding matters that are being or have been prosecuted in the courts as a result of a corruption investigation by the Commissioner, we publish information about current prosecutions and prosecution outcomes on the ICAC website. Where available, sentencing remarks and judgments are included.
ICAC University Integrity Survey 2020
In December the Commissioner published a report detailing the results of the ICAC University Integrity Survey 2020.
More than 3,200 respondents from the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and University of South Australia shared their thoughts, perceptions and experiences of corruption and inappropriate conduct within their university.
The survey builds upon the ICAC Public Integrity Survey 2018 —which received responses from more than 12,000 public officers across South Australia — and helps to complete our understanding of the attitudes and experiences of public officers in relation to corruption and inappropriate conduct in South Australian public administration.
Public health restrictions and the shift to work-from-home saw the cancellation of many ICAC education events throughout 2020. We have a modified education program back up and running in 2021. However, where possible, we encourage public officers to utilise our online education materials including our online courses - ICAC Induction for Public Officers and ICAC Conflicts of Interest.
We will soon be adding more online courses for this year, including an ICAC induction for local government elected members and an online internal investigations seminar.
On 3 February 2020, Deputy Commissioner Michael Riches commenced an evaluation of the practices, policies and procedures of the Department for Correctional Services.
An evaluation focusses on an agency’s processes and systems with a view to assisting the agency to guard against risks of corruption, misconduct and maladministration.
The evaluation was temporarily suspended in March 2020 to allow the Department and ICAC staff to redirect resources to deal with the impact of COVID-19. However, it recommenced in mid-June and has now received written submissions from stakeholders, undertaken a survey of Department staff and contractors, and conducted executive and staff interviews. A report for Parliament is being prepared and is expected to be tabled in the first half of 2021.
Referrals to the DPP
The ICAC does not prosecute matters or decide if someone is guilty of a corruption offence. Where an ICAC corruption investigation uncovers evidence of criminal offending, a brief of evidence is sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for the Director to determine whether or not a prosecution will commence.
This practice was called into question in August last year when a decision of the District Court determined that an ICAC direct referral to the DPP was contrary to the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012 (the IAC Act). The court said that the matter in question should have instead been referred to South Australia Police for further investigation and prosecution.
That decision had an impact on a number of matters that were before the courts and others that were being prepared for referral to the DPP.
In November 2020 the Full Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal heard an appeal by the accused person and an application by DPP Martin Hinton QC, and an application by the Commissioner for declarations, all arising from the decision. The judgement of the Court was that the ICAC Act does authorise the Commissioner to refer a matter directly to the DPP. This decision has allowed the courts to progress matters already before it and for other matters under investigation to be referred.
This article was published in the ICAC's newsletter - Integrity Matters