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Agencies caught out by corruption complaints

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Government agencies have complained of being ill-equipped to deal with allegations of corruption, particularly where senior public servants are involved.

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The revelation, by Queensland’s Public Service Commission, casts doubt over the Crime and Corruption Commission’s long-held practice of handing serious complaints back to agencies to investigate. The “devolution principle” is meant to empower agencies and enable the CCC to focus on other cases, but may have seen resources spread too thin.

PSC chief executive Robert Setter told the CCC’s parliamentary oversight committee it had worked with the corruption-buster to help agencies to deal with such matters and “would welcome the opportunity to continue to work with the CCC to enhance sector integrity capability”.

“From time to time, other public sector agencies seek the assistance of the PSC for matters involving chief executives, or human resources and ethical standards areas,” Setter wrote in late January.

“In some of these cases, concerns have been raised about the referral of corrupt conduct matters by the CCC back to agencies with no, or very limited, capability to handle them, or where the allegations involve the chief executive or member of a board.”

There have been a string of high-profile corruption and misconduct cases in Queensland in recent years, at both a state and local government level, and some have yet to flow through the courts.

In addition, conflict-of-interest allegations against Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and, separately, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s then chief-of-staff, David Barbagallo, have served to highlight a growing problem within government. Such conflicts now dominate the work of Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov.

Trad gave up part of her portfolio responsibilities and a contentious investment property to resolve the allegations against her, while the parliament is debating new laws that would potentially criminalise such behaviour. The CCC is still looking at the allegations against Barbagallo, while the Integrity Commissioner is working to build the capacity of agencies and offices to manage such conflicts.

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