A promise was made before the 2010 election, by the then opposition leader, that an Independent- Broad-Based- Anti corruption – Commission (IBAC), closely modeled on the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), would be established.
The IBAC has very little power by comparison, containing a narrow definition of corrupt conduct. For example, “being conduct that would, if the facts were found proved beyond reasonable doubt at a trial”. Click to enlarge Tandberg cartoon
In contrast, ICAC’s jurisdiction is very widely expressed and it is entitled to investigate “any allegation or complaint that, or any circumstances which, in the Commissioner’s opinion imply that … corrupt conduct … may have occurred, may be occurring or may be about to occur.”
“The IBAC must not conduct an investigation unless
it is reasonably satisfied that the conduct is serious corrupt conduct”. In contrast the NSW ICAC has much broader powers to start an investigation. “Corrupt conduct” is defined in the ICAC Act as including any activity that could adversely affect directly or indirectly the exercise of official functions by a public official, together with a broad variety of particular offences.
Investigations conducted by the NSW Commission (ICAC) involving the planning system have aptly demonstrated the corruption risks of a much wider discretion. Below are excerpts from an (ICAC) document;
“It requires no great leap of faith to suggest that anyone who has discretion to grant development approval, to rezone or to depart from stated requirements – whether they are elected officials or professional officers, and regardless of their level and political persuasion – is at risk of corrupt approaches. The greater the departure from the previous norm, the greater the corruption risk. This is partly because of the huge windfall profits that can result from a change in planning rules”.
The only area in which the commission believes it needs to make a recommendation concerning the roles of councillors is the absence of a requirement in current legislation for giving reasons for approval; Particular concern has been expressed in submissions about councillors giving consents against the recommendations of council officers. The commission is of the view that the absence of reasons does not necessarily suggest corrupt conduct , however, it considers that reasons should be given for all development decisions”.
Victoria’s integrity regime will likely have to wait until next year, as both major parties blame each other for the delay in amending the Victorian IBAC to have similar powers to the NSW’s ICAC.