Mr Stephen O’Bryan QC, IBAC Commissioner, released a report on 20 December 2017 reflecting on IBAC’s first five years, timed to coincide with the end of his five-year term. The Honourable Robert Redlich QC will replace O’Bryan from 1 January 2018.
In the report, O’Bryan reflects that: “While much has been achieved by IBAC in shining a light on corruption in Victoria’s public sector, there is still much to be done.” He goes on to say that: “If we are to achieve our shared vision of a state that actively resists corruption within all facets of government, then there is no room for complacency. We need to build on the increasing awareness about what corruption is, the highly detrimental impacts it can have on the public sector and the community, and what can be done to prevent it.”
And while the report clearly and succinctly lays out IBAC’s five-year scorecard, a theme emerges around the risks of corruption in government procurement, or the ‘red flags’ as IBAC refers to them. As the report says: “The harm caused by corruption goes beyond the individuals and the reputation of agencies involved. Ultimately, Victorians lose out. Corruption erodes community trust in the public sector and wastes taxes or rates that had been earmarked for important community projects and services.”
As is the case with all predominantly complaint-based investigation bodies, it has been difficult for IBAC to evolve from an entirely reactive agency – responding to complaints individually as they come in – to one that can also be proactive. Turning its mind to this problem, in response to a number of investigations relating to corruption in public sector procurement, IBAC undertook a survey of Victorian public sector suppliers. The survey results, published in June 2016, indicated that one third of suppliers were discouraged from responding to public sector procurements due to concerns of corruption. Forty per cent of the suppliers rated corruption in procurement activities as either major or moderate.
Since the survey IBAC has worked with public sector agencies, including the Victorian Government Purchasing Board, to improve and strengthen integrity in public procurement. IBAC’s approach, however, recognises and empowers agencies to take responsibility for integrity and protection against corruption. IBAC recognises that public sector leaders have a better and more comprehensive understanding of their organisations and are best placed to put the right frameworks in place.
IBAC’s The red flags of corruption: procurement fact sheet, published in 2015, provides practical advice on steps that public sector agencies at both the state and local level can take to protect their procurement processes from corruption. It is just one example of the positive steps that IBAC has taken in its first five years to achieve its vision of a Victorian public sector that actively resists corruption.
IBAC’s Exposing and preventing corruption in Victoria – Special Report: IBAC’s first five years is now available for download.
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“A participant in the UN Global Compact, CourtHeath seeks to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the Global Compact with business and government organisations in Victoria.”
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IMAGE: Used under licence from shutterstock.com
Julia Cornwell McKean.
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