IBAC needs more power, funds to do job

Victoria's corruption watchdog IBAC has called for stronger powers and more funding.
Victoria's corruption watchdog IBAC has called for stronger powers and more funding.

Victoria's anti-corruption watchdog says it needs stronger powers and more funds to do its job properly.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission's annual report, tabled in parliament on Thursday, reveals the watchdog assessed 4965 allegations of suspected corruption or police misconduct in the 2020/21 financial year - a 17 per cent increase on the previous year.

Fourteen investigations and preliminary inquiries were started and 19 were finalised.

This includes an investigation dubbed Operation Ord, into former education department boss Nino Napoli, who defrauded more than $500,000 from the public school system with help from his cousin.

He was jailed in July for three years and 10 months, with a non-parole period of 23 months.

But Commissioner Robert Redlich said the watchdog needs more powers to stop investigations being tied up in the courts.

"As it stands, elements of IBAC's legislation cause investigations to be unnecessarily delayed or frustrated by lengthy litigation because we are unable to gain access to crucial evidence and information," he wrote.

"Particularly with respect to claims of privilege, investigations can be impeded for inordinate periods, as litigation in the Supreme Court is the only mechanism provided to resolve such claims, regardless of their merit."

He said IBAC was also seeking reform to be able to publish the recommendations arising from investigations more publicly.

Currently, recommendations are required to be made in private and can only be published in special or annual reports if IBAC is not satisfied the agency has responded.

Chief executive Marlo Baragwanath said IBAC's ability to do its job was also tied to the funding it receives.

"We have been public about our need for additional funding to ensure corruption and police misconduct are identified and exposed," she said.

IBAC received an additional $20 million from the state government for the 2021/22 financial year, but the report states more money is needed.

"Although this is a very welcome funding increase and a recognition of the important work IBAC does, it will be very challenging to manage a large funding increase for 2021/22 followed by funding reductions in the subsequent two years," it reads.

IBAC is currently holding public hearings into allegations of branch stacking by Labor MPs and their taxpayer-funded staff.

Australian Associated Press