A watchdog’s work is never done: Qld CCC held 244 days of hearings in one big year

By Stephen Easton

Monday October 14, 2019

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It has been a big year for the commissioner charged with investigating crime and corruption in the Queensland public sector, Alan MacSporran, but a there’s always a lot to do in his line of work.

His Western Australian counterpart, John McKechnie, has also been busy, pumping out 45 reports of various kinds from 50 investigations stemming from over 5000 allegations of misconduct in 2018-19. The Northern Territory’s relatively new Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Ken Fleming, was also immediately inundated with allegations and reported his staff were working at full capacity soon after the office opened its doors in late 2018.

There are 260 work days in 52 weeks, and Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission held 244 days of investigative hearings in the 2018-19 financial year, according to its latest annual report. Of those, only 36 days of hearings were spent investigating corruption as opposed to major crime. By way of general comparison, the state’s parliament has sat for a total of 68 days since it first came together February, 2018.

MacSporran proudly reports his team has “achieved excellent operational results” over the year, too. The CCC handed a tidy $13.65 million back to Queensland taxpayers after it was seized as proceeds of crime. It also charged 23 people with a total of 192 offences stemming from corruption, and a further 36 people with 126 charges relating to crime investigations.

“I believe the results the CCC achieved in 2018-19 on behalf of Queenslanders demonstrates the importance of an independent agency dedicated to fighting crime and public sector corruption,” the commissioner said in a statement.

“Wherever we have identified systemic weaknesses in public sector administration or legislation, we have proposed improvements and reform to prevent those corruption risks from continuing.”

The agency produced 82 recommendations that go towards preventing future wrongdoing in the financial year, 17 recommendations for disciplinary action in relation to corruption, and reported on the results of five corruption audits.

The Qld CCC’s governing legislation was amended in March this year, expanding the definition of corrupt conduct so that it no longer includes the intention of gaining a benefit or causing a detriment, requiring government agencies to record their reasoning for deciding not to report a matter to the watchdog, and expanding the scope for investigators to go after people outside the public sector.

“The CCC can now investigate allegations made about members of the public if their conduct impairs, or could impair, confidence in public sector administration. This could lead to these people being charged with criminal offences,” MacSporran explained.

One big highlight of 2018-19 was the agency’s successful efforts in the local government sector, which saw eight serving members of Logan City Council charged, including the former mayor, who faced 14 criminal charges related to corruption.

Several convictions have also resulted from investigations into the nearby Ipswich Council, while others are still before the courts.

This investigation found evidence of significant failures in governance, including consistent breaches of policy and official corruption,” MacSporran recounts in the annual report.

“As at 30 June 2019, sixteen people including two mayors, two chief executive officers, a chief operating officer and council employees have been charged with a total of 91 criminal offences.

In July 2019, former Mayor Paul Pisasale was sentenced to two years imprisonment after being found guilty of extortion. A number of other people have also been convicted and received penalties ranging from six months to 4.5 years imprisonment.”

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