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Monday, September 26, 2011

FOI delivers persuasive evidence of the need for anti corruption watchdog

Linton Besser in the Sydney Morning Herald added to reports last week from his successful Freedom of Information access to internal audit reports with articles in the last few days on documents released by Foreign Affairs and Trade (more than 100 corruption and misconduct allegations secretly investigated by the government in the past three years) and the Attorney General's Department (instances of rorting overtime claims and obtaining financial benefits by deception.)

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My earlier comment that the audit reports are snapshots at a particular time going back a couple of years and don't necessarily present the full or current picture still stands, but Besser's overview article at the weekend showed he has uncovered more than this- a veritable album bulging with instances of possible wrong doing in government agencies.
These reports should heighten interest in the fact we don't have an independent federal anti-corruption watchdog. However as Besser points out, neither major party so far supports a Greens bill to introduce such a body. From the overview:
Last year, in 10 agencies, there were 21 cases of alleged corruption, 65 conflicts of interest, and 247 cases of fraud. The public has heard about none of these, and many, on the evidence seen by the Herald, appear to have been handled discreetly to avoid public embarrassment. Indeed, there were only 11 referrals to the federal police by the entire Commonwealth government last year. The internal audit files obtained by the Herald also show widespread corruption risks - poorly-managed procurements worth many millions of dollars, shoddy information security measures such as passwords which are never expunged and a culture of rorting travel benefits, salary entitlements or department credit cards....
 ... almost 1800 misconduct cases were handled inside just 5 per cent of the agencies that make up the federal government. In the past six years, more than 3200 investigations have been conducted inside the Department of Defence alone. Almost one-fifth of Australian Customs and Border Protection's workforce has been investigated since 2007 for offences including bribery and ''prohibited imports'
The graphic compiled by the Herald includes reference also to over 100 investigations into "Disclosure of information", about the same number as the intriguing "Abuse of power."

Besser highlighted weaknesses in the anti-corruption system in this article on 4 October.

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