"External reporting" refers to agencies passing on information about corruption and crime to the ICAC, the Police, the NSW Ombudsman, and/or other relevant authorities (e.g. the Australian Tax Office or the Health Care Complaints Commission).
To ensure external reporting of corruption is consistent, each organisation should have a policy to guide the external reporting process. Having a policy will help avoid allegations of bias regarding which allegations/suspicions are reported to the ICAC or Police.
The policy should include whether and how allegations of corruption should be reported to the ICAC, the Police or other government agencies. It should be linked to the ICAC Act and related guidelines (see Resources section below).
The importance of prompt external reporting
One of the most important actions an agency can take in preventing corruption and limiting its effects is to report any suspected corrupt conduct to the ICAC promptly. Even if the ICAC decides not to investigate, prompt reporting allows the ICAC to determine the best action/intervention and to provide advice to the agency on responding to current conduct.
Early reporting can provide the ICAC with valuable information that may help identify other related corrupt conduct, such as a contractor involved in suspicious dealings with numerous agencies, or a person who has been employed by several different agencies and misbehaves at all of them.
A delay in external reporting can result in the trail becoming 'cold', making it difficult to identify key offenders as well as making it more difficult to gather good evidence.
Senior management and external reporting
The principal officer of a public authority has a statutory duty (under section 11(2) of the ICAC Act) to report to the Commission any matter that he or she suspects on reasonable grounds "may concern corrupt conduct".
The principal officer is usually the most senior officer in a public authority, such as the CEO, Director General or General Manager. The principal officer of a local government council is the General Manager (not the Mayor); the principal officer of a university is the Vice-Chancellor, and the principal officer of a Local Aboriginal Land Council is the Chairperson.
Agencies may also be required by the ICAC to submit a report when the ICAC has instructed them to undertake an internal investigation. See the related topic on Internal investigations.
In situations where many agencies work together, such as for whole-of-government projects, there may be confusion about who is responsible for external reporting of corruption. Senior managers involved in such projects should develop a protocol for external reporting to ensure it is clear who does what if corruption is suspected or detected. It does not really matter if more than one principal officer makes a report about the same matter to the ICAC. What is important is that a report is made.
Staff reporting to the ICAC
Staff can also report corrupt conduct allegations directly to the ICAC. The ICAC Act affords protection against reprisals to anyone making a report in good faith.
|Responding to corrupt conduct: External reporting|
An ICAC investigation illustrates how delayed external reporting can jeopardise an investigation into corruption.
An employee of a Local Government Council made a report to the general manager that a developer had offered a $30,000 bribe if the employee would award a contract for developing a car park owned by the Council to the developer's company.
The general manager was highly experienced and had made many previous reports to the ICAC under section 11 of the ICAC Act. At the time, the Council was also the subject of a large ICAC investigation into allegations of corruption, and the general manager had regular contact with an ICAC lawyer.
However, the general manager did not immediately report the alleged bribe to the ICAC. He went on leave four days after receiving the complaint, did not tell the person acting in his position to report it to the ICAC, and only reported the matter himself almost one month after the event. On the same day the general manager made the report to the ICAC – and without consulting the ICAC – he also wrote to the developer and informed him that it had been reported to Council that he had allegedly offered a bribe to a Council employee.
The ICAC did not consider that the general manager had wilfully disregarded his statutory duty or attempted to 'tip off' the developer. However, the general manager's conduct fell below the standards expected of the principal officer of the public authority and had the potential to prejudice the ICAC's investigation.
After further investigation, the ICAC made a finding of corrupt conduct against the developer.
Frequently asked questions
What should I report to the ICAC?
Under section 11 of the ICAC Act, the principal officer of a public authority is obliged to report any matter that the officer suspects on reasonable grounds concerns, or may concern, corrupt conduct. The ICAC encourages other public officials and members of the public to report any matter that concerns or may concern corrupt conduct. Reports to the ICAC that are made in good faith are protected under the ICAC Act.
The report should be made as soon as you have a reasonable suspicion that corrupt conduct has occurred, or may occur.
When should I report something to the ICAC?
|The report should be made as soon as you have a reasonable suspicion that corrupt conduct has occurred, or may occur.|
What is "a reasonable suspicion"?
|This means that there is a real possibility that corrupt conduct is, or may be, involved. There needs to be more than an idle wondering but there can be less than a firm belief.|
How do I report to the ICAC?
|Formal reports to the ICAC under section 11 and section 54 of the ICAC Act can be made on-line on the ICAC website or in writing. Other reports and complaints regarding suspected corrupt conduct may be made online, in writing, by email, fax or telephone.|
Should I tell others I am reporting a matter to the ICAC?
|While there is no prohibition in the ICAC Act against disclosing a referral to the ICAC publicly, in general, reports should be kept confidential. This helps ensure that any subsequent investigation is not compromised. Furthermore, to disclose publicly a report to the ICAC can cause unnecessary damage or embarrassment to individuals.|
What should be included in a formal report to the ICAC?
|The ICAC has guidelines to assist agencies that are preparing section 11 or section 54 reports for the ICAC. See Resources below.|
When should I report something to the Police?
|When it appears that a criminal offence has been committed.|
Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (NSW)
Relevant ICAC investigations
Below are some examples of ICAC investigations that found inadequate external reporting was a factor in the corruption that occurred:
- Department of Housing - allegations of corrupt conduct in allocation of public housing (Operation Greenway) (January 2008)
- Crime and Corruption Commission (Queensland), www.ccc.qld.gov.au
- NSW Ombudsman, www.ombo.nsw.gov.au
- Standards Australia, www.standards.org.au
- NSW legislation, www.legislation.nsw.gov.au
Related topics on the ICAC website