“Long overdue” national anti-corruption watchdog welcomed, but key flaws need to be fixed, says Governance Institute

Governance Institute of Australia has strongly welcomed the first direct steps to establish a national anti-corruption body but says some key flaws in the proposal need to be fixed.

Guaranteeing independent and ongoing funding, not allowing politicians to be shielded from scrutiny, holding public hearings, and allowing members of the public to make referrals are essential for the operation of an effective Commonwealth Integrity Commission, Governance Institute says in its submission to the Attorney General.

“Corruption is a symptom of governance failure,” Governance Institute of Australia CEO Megan Motto said.

“We welcome this new, long overdue federal anti-corruption body but we have concerns with some aspects of the proposal that we hope will be addressed.

“The Commonwealth Integrity Commission should have sufficient scope, jurisdiction, powers and resources to fulfill its purpose of promoting integrity, and therefore good governance, in the Commonwealth public sector. Its resourcing should be transparent and free of conflicts of interest.”

Governance Institute says a Commonwealth Integrity Commission should:

  • be independently funded. Any degree of influence or control over funding by the executive branch of Government is a potential threat to its independence.
  • allow members of the public to refer a matter for consideration for investigation. Under the current proposal, the public would only be able to raise allegations directly with the Commission in very limited circumstances.
  • have the discretion to hold public hearings. The current proposal restricts public hearings to law enforcement corruption issues only.
  • be held to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.
  • not be potentially impacted by proposed broad ministerial powers without sufficient safeguards in place.
  • have guaranteed resourcing and not have to rely on ad hoc funding in federal budgets which creates a potential risk of conflict of interest.

Ms Motto said public trust in government is essential, particularly during periods of ongoing global uncertainty.

“Governance Institute’s latest Ethics Index found that Australian federal politicians were among the occupations perceived to be least ethical, and federal, state and local politicians were ranked relatively low for ethical behaviour,” Ms Motto said.

“We strongly welcome the establishment of the Commonwealth Integrity Commission as a key element of helping restore the level of trust in government representatives.”

Read the submission 

About Governance Institute of Australia 

  • A national membership association, advocating for a community of 40,000 governance and risk management professionals from the listed, unlisted and not-for profit sectors. 
  • Our mission is to drive better governance in all organisations, which will in turn create a stronger, better society. 

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