Nearly half of all corruption cases a federal watchdog successfully investigated involved unauthorised access to information systems, an analysis spanning cases since 2013 shows.
The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, in a new report examining 33 cases of corruption, found the officials involved were more often men and people in higher ranking positions, including managers or SES staff.
The commission has powers to investigate corruption in 10 federal law enforcement agencies.
Public servants accessing unauthorised information such as personal information, immigration details, or law enforcement agency activities was the most common form of corruption the commission dealt with.
“In the majority of cases, staff members accessed information either to pursue or advance their own interests, or to assist others,” the report found.
In a further trend, in about 40% of cases, public servants were found to have been involved in unauthorised disclosure of restricted information.
In nearly one-third of cases, public servants were found to have misused their position or the property and benefits of their office to advantage themselves or others.
The commission pointed to a 2020 case that prosecuted a staff member for falsifying medical certificates to claim sick leave.
“This investigation highlighted the need to be alert to potential behavioural changes, such as repeated absenteeism, that could be indicative of underlying integrity issues,” the report said.
Secondary employment had also emerged as creating conflict of interests in some agency organsiations, according to the commission, sparking at least three investigations.
“Integrity frameworks should include a process for employees to seek and obtain permission for secondary, or outside, employment,” the report says.
Integrity commissioner Jaala Hinchcliffe said the analysis highlighted corruption prevention observations to assist agencies to manage the potential risks in organisations.
“Our purpose is to make it more difficult for corruption to occur or remain undetected,” Hinchlcliffe said.