Still toothless: jurisdictional, funding and secrecy issues in the Integrity Commission Tasmania

Corruption Political corruption Public servants Government accountability Government integrity Public sector Tasmania

The Integrity Commission Tasmania is failing in its mission to ensure public confidence that misconduct is being appropriately dealt with in the state’s public sector. Australia Institute research has found that nearly one in two (48.5%) Tasmanians distrust the Commission’s ability to uncover and prevent misconduct in public administration. Significant reform is needed for the Commission to once again have public confidence that it can prevent and investigate misconduct.

This has been evident since at least 2016, when an Independent Review of the Commission recommended 55 changes to improve the body. Only six of these recommendations have been adopted. Implementing these recommendations would be a good place to start in strengthening the Commission.

The Commission has a limited jurisdiction. It cannot investigate matters covered by parliamentary privilege and can only investigate public officers. The definition of public officers is particularly limited and has resulted in complaints about the last two state elections not being investigated. Along with limited resourcing, this may contribute to the relatively low number of investigations completed. All other integrity bodies in Australia have completed between 3.6 and 12.4 times as many investigations per year as Tasmania’s Commission.

This report draws on recommendations of the National Integrity Committee, a group of prominent judges and lawyers convened by the Australia Institute. The report compares the Commission with other integrity bodies around Australia. Tasmania performs poorly by comparison across a range of measures including the number of investigations launched and completed, the number of public hearings, and the number of referrals for prosecution (see table below). This is despite many other jurisdictions’ integrity bodies being established more recently than Tasmania’s. The authors conclude the reasons for this, and Tasmanians’ lack of confidence in their integrity body, are likely to lie in the limited jurisdiction, transparency and resourcing of the Commission.

The Australia Institute recommends that:

  • The recommendations from the 2016 Independent Review of the Integrity Commission Act 2009 be implemented.
  • The Commission’s jurisdiction be expanded to enable the investigation of any person that adversely affects or could adversely affect, directly or indirectly, the honest or impartial exercise of public administration.
  • The Commission undergo structural and cultural changes so that its design is improved and existing powers, including holding full inquiries with public hearings, are utilised.
  • The Commission be adequately funded.
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