Posted on January 17, 2024 by Adrian Guy and

Key findings: ICAC Annual Report 2022-2023

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (the Commission) has published its annual report for the year 2022-23 (the Report), outlining the nature of complaints received and their investigative processes. The Report reflects a substantial increase in complaints reported to the Commission by both members of the public and public sector employees and contractors compared to  previous years.

In this article, we particularly look at the key findings of the Report as they relate to complaints made concerning local government authorities.

Types of matters referred to ICAC

In 2022-23, the Commission received and managed a total of 3,004 matters, of which, 1,222 (41%) were complaints made under section 10 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (NSW) (ICAC Act), which allows any person to make a complaint to the Commission about possible corrupt conduct. The Report also indicates that of the 1,222 complaints made, 27% of these were made anonymously which is a slight increase from 2021-22 in which 24% of the complaints were anonymous.

Breaking down the nature of the section 10 complaints, the five most frequently mentioned workplace functions were as follows:

  1. Allocation of funds, materials and services – 43%.
  2. Reporting, investigation, sentencing and enforcement – 31%.
  3. Human resource and staff administration – 27%.
  4. Development applications and land rezoning – 20%.
  5. Procurement, disposal and partnerships – 17%.

There was a substantial increase in the proportion of section 10 complaints referring to ‘Allocation of funds, materials and services’ from 34% in 2021-22 to 43% in 2022-23. Of further note is that the types of corrupt conduct complained about included a rise of allegations involving ‘Partiality’ which rose from 47% in 2021-22 to 55% in 2022-23.

Of the total complaints made to the Commission, 875 (29%) were made under section 11 of the ICAC Act, a section which imposes a duty on a principal officer to report suspected corrupt conduct within that officer’s public authority. The Report notes that this is an increase in section 11 reports from the 798 in 2021-22 and 726 in 2020-21.

Who were the complaints made against

Of the total number of complaints received by the Commission, 482 section 10 complaints, being 39% of the total section 10 complaints received, were made about local governments.

The Report attributes this high percentage to the fact that the public generally have a higher level of personal interaction with local government (as opposed to other government or public authorities), and the greater personal interest many have in the decisions of their local council.

Government and Financial Services was the next highest category, being 14% of section 10 complaints. The next three highest was Health, Law and Justice and Custodial Services were the next three highest with 9%, 8% and 6% respectively.

Public interest disclosures

The Report also refers to disclosures made by government sector employees of contractors who, provided they meet certain criteria, may be entitled to protections under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (NSW)(PID Act). This Act, provides protection for any employee or contractor who has made a public interest disclosure (PID). In 2022-23 ICAC classed 997 matters as meeting the criteria under the PID Act, with 190 being complaints under section 10 of the ICAC Act and 805 were reports made under section 11. This Act has now been superseded by the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2022 (NSW) which commenced on 1 October 2023.

This is a substantial increase from 2021-22 in which 854 matters meeting the criteria under the PID Act, with 133 being section 10 complaints and 721 being section 11 complaints. It is unclear however, whether the increase in complaints is due to the added protected afforded to the individuals who make the PID’s.

Outcome of matters referred to the Commission

Of all 3,004 matters referred to the Commission, after an initial assessment the Commission determined as follows:

  • 1,711 matters (78%) were closed with no further action taken (down from 2021-22 in which 85% of the matters referred were closed with no further action taken).
  • 265 matters (12%) were reviewed and referred externally to the appropriate public authority (an increase from the previous year’s 212 matters (10%). This approach is consistent with ICAC’s increased focus on sharing relevant information to other agencies to improve their operations and ‘corruption proof’ their systems.
  • 196 matters (9%) were internally referred for further information to be obtained to assist in the Commission’s assessment (a significant increase from the 112 referred internally in 2021-22).
  • 10 matters (less than 1%) were referred to the Investigation Division for preliminary investigation, which is the same as last year. It should be noted that the Commission will only investigate the most serious of matters with the potential to expose serious and systemic corruption, meaning that the small numbers of matters referred for investigation is not unexpected.

Also of note, the Commission exercised its powers under section 53 and 54 requiring the appropriate public authority to investigate a matter and provide a report to the Commission a total of five times, a significant increase from the one referral made in 2021-22.

Conclusion

Overall, the Report reveals an increase of both section 10 and section 11 complaints, with the majority of complaints being made against local government. However, this is likely reflective of the high number of local councils and people’s close interactions they have with them compared to other government agencies.

The vast majority of complaints made to the Commission, 78%, were reviewed and closed with no further action to be taken, indicating these complaints were either without merit or were of such a minor nature that they fell beneath the purview of the Commission. However, there was a significant increase in matters reviewed and either referred to the appropriate public agency or internally to obtain further information, which reflects an increased focus on the Commission’s intent to share more information with other agencies.

Of the nature of complaints made, the leading types related to allocation of funds, materials and services. This is not necessarily indicative of an increase in corruption in those areas, but possible increased public awareness of corrupt behaviour in these areas and a greater willingness to report corruption.

The Commission’s report can be found here

If you have any questions regarding this post, please leave a comment below or contact Dr Lindsay Taylor on (02) 8235 9701 or Adrian Guy on (02) 8235 9729.