Queensland A-G slams political attack on public servants with new report findings

By Melissa Coade

July 5, 2022

Shannon Fentiman
Queensland attorney-general Shannon Fentiman. (AAP Image/Darren England)

A Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) report into allegations of disclosure of confidential information has been tabled in the Queensland parliament, with Shannon Fentiman demanding the opposition apologise for stoking controversy where there was none. 

The attorney-general fronted cameras on Monday to slam detractors of the Queensland Office of the Integrity Commissioner and demand the opposition apologise for spreading misinformation about public servants. 

“This investigation sets the record straight and Queenslanders deserve to know the truth about this matter,” Fentiman said, noting the events examined by the CCC were ‘unremarkable’.

“The report goes on to say that a failure to correct the confusion and misinformation around these events may continue to erode public confidence.”

The report followed an inquiry dubbed ‘Investigation Workshop’, launched last August. It focused on allegations concerning the ‘security’ of confidential information at the Integrity Commission, with claims a laptop had been wiped of data once it was taken by the Queensland PSC.

In February, PSC chief executive Robert Setter was moved to issue a statement denying any ‘raid’ or seizure of items had occurred. He confirmed a laptop was provided by the integrity commissioner.

This week’s tabled report flagged misinformation concerns over reporting of the saga, and said the circumstances around accessing the laptop were ‘entirely ordinary’. It went on to say the circumstances in which one government laptop was ‘wiped’ was ‘wholly unremarkable’.

“These allegations have attracted a substantial amount of public attention, media coverage, and, regrettably, misinformation,” the CCC said.

“A failure to correct the confusion and misinformation around these events may continue to erode public confidence.”

The circumstances under which concerns were raised with the CCC about a potential improper disclosure of agency information came about when the other inquiries were being made into a separate matter.

The CCC was told integrity commissioner Nikola Stepanov believed she had identified instances in which an executive officer (who worked with the agency between 2018 and 2020) had ‘blind copied’ emails to her own individual integrity commissioner email account, and also to a PSC email account.

Investigators interviewed witnesses and completed a forensic examination of the executive officer’s laptop, and a ‘backup’ made of it. Notices to discover were also issued to various entities to obtain further information relevant to the investigation.

“On 19 August 2021, the CCC determined to investigate the allegation that the executive officer had misused her position to disclose confidential information of the Integrity Commissioner,” the report said. 

“The investigation also considered the circumstances in which the executive officer’s and director’s laptops were removed from the Integrity Commissioner’s office, and the information security arrangements for managing the Integrity Commissioner’s information.”

No improper disclosure was identified at the Office of the Integrity Commission, and there was no evidence information security arrangements had led to any improper access of confidential agency information.

“Ultimately this investigation did not reveal any particular concerns about the security of information held by the Integrity Commissioner. 

“While it did identify potential vulnerabilities in how information security is managed, those were latent and longstanding vulnerabilities which were drawn to the surface by this matter, rather than exploited by it,” the report said. 

Fentiman said opposition leader David Crisafulli and Fiona Simson, Tim Nicholls and Jarrod Bleijie had been perpetuating a false story for months. With the CCC report now available, she said, the LNP members should apologise for misleading the public about what had become referred to as so-called ‘integrity inferno’ in the QPS.

“They were absolutely untruthful about what happened here. This just shows they are more interested in scoring cheap political points than the facts, more interested in fear-mongering than the facts, and they absolutely need to apologise to Queenslanders today,” Fentiman said.

“It was the LNP that stood up every day, [who] were on social media every day, publishing #whatsonthelaptop. Well, we know today what’s on the laptop: entirely ordinary material that was backed up by government services. 

“They’ve attacked public servants, they’ve attacked ministerial staff, they’ve attacked ministers and the premier, and now we see the facts,” she said.

The CCC made three recommendations, including advice to the Department of Premier and Cabinet that a plan to extend retention period for the report’s information should prioritise ‘areas where the information is most sensitive’ and unauthorised access posed the greatest risk.

It also recommended the ongoing suitability of how information is secured at the Integrity Commission be considered, and endorsed reform proposals for administrative and governance arrangements made by the Yearbury review

The A-G said the government was considering those recommendations.


READ MORE:

Queensland CCC confirms multiple complaints related to and from integrity commissioner

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