At SASSLA’s conference, held on the 20 March 2015, Morry Bailes from Tindall Gask Bentley, led a discussion on the recent establishment of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption in South Australia (ICAC) and its impact on State Government employees. ICAC aims to strengthen the integrity of the South Australian Public Sector and enhance Public Sector accountability.
In recent times each Australian state has implemented an Anti-Corruption Commission. This comes after New South Wales and Queensland experienced endemic problems with public sector and police corruption. Each State has a slightly different name for their commission and operates under different State laws. In Victoria the Commission is named IBAC – Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission. Since its establishment in 2012, up to 70 Principal Class Officers have been called to testify at an IBAC inquiry. It is only a matter of time until our public sector school leaders will inevitably be called upon to appear at an ICAC hearing.
The Office of Public Integrity (OPI) was also created to work in conjunction with ICAC. Their function is to triage complaints and direct them to the appropriate body or review complaints that have not been actioned properly. Other anti-corruption bodies are still in place within the State, since before ICAC’s inception, and complaints can still be referred to these bodies, such as the Police Anti-Corruption Unit, and not ICAC itself in the first instance.
What is the jurisdiction of ICAC?
- Corruption (eg: bribery of a Public Officer, threats to a Public Officer, abuse of public office or criminal matters)
- Misconduct (contravention of the Public Service Code of Conduct)
- Maladministration arising from public service administration (irregular use of public money or resources or substantial mismanagement of public function)
What do I do if I receive a summons from ICAC?
- You will receive a summons at your work or home address.
- You need to read the notation on the summons which will give you information of what you can do.
- It is an offence under the Act, in certain circumstances, to tell anyone about the summons.
- You can tell a lawyer about the summons, but you may not be able to tell SASSLA. This information will be in the notation on the summons.
- This makes it difficult to consult with SASSLA for legal assistance. However, in most cases, SASSLA can be contacted and can ask the Commissioner for access to communicate with the member to engage in legal representation. SASSLA cannot be advised of the contents of the matter, but can be advised that a summons has been served and legal representation is needed. Usually, the Commissioner can accommodate this.
- Never appear at an ICAC hearing without a lawyer!
What can I expect at an ICAC hearing?
- ICAC operates differently from criminal or civil matters in that all hearing of the Commissioner are private. The Commissioner does have the power to make matters public at his discretion, however, most matters are conducted privately.
- You will not be told any information about what the matter involves until you are sworn in and asked to give evidence. This applies if you are appearing as a witness at a hearing about someone else or if in fact the hearing is about you being the subject of a complaint. You will not be told if you are appearing as a witness or the subject. Generally, people are summoned to be witnesses.
- The Commissioner can act as the examiner or appoint another examiner to act on his behalf. It is important to note that all common law rights are waived in an ICAC hearing. You have no rights against self-incrimination also known as the right to “not say anything”. You will be forced to answer questions, however, answers are inadmissible should the matter go to a criminal trial.
- The hearings are carried out in a high security environment. You can only have your lawyer present and no mobile technology.
More information can be found at ICAC’s website http://www.icac.sa.gov.au/. SASSLA’s legal team can assist members with any ICAC matters. Please contact SASSLA for further information.