A REPORT BY THE INDEPENDENT COMMISSION AGAINST CORRUPTION
Titled: "Monitoring the Impact of the NSW Protected Disclosures Act, 1994"
Subtitled: "Encouraging NSW Public Sector Employees to Report Corruption"
Dated: November 1997
With Respect To:
CLIENT-SATISFACTION WITH ICAC
(a) A basic problem in our culture is that "blowing the whistle" on a superior officer is generally considered an even worse thing to do than "dobbing in your mates", although major exposures of serious wrongdoings from the inside, in the public interest, almost always involve the necessity to do this.
(b) The ICAC Act determines the main purpose of ICAC as investigating corruption. Whistleblowers Australia has had advice from many members and associates over the past few years that ICAC has dismissed their genuine and serious submissions about corruption without giving a reason, often after simply referring the matter to the suspects. This raises the question of whether ICAC staff have been adequately trained to eschew cultural bias against people blowing the whistle on superior officers.
(c) The decision of ICAC to conduct this monitoring project on the impact of the Protected Disclosures Act 1994 is laudable, especially in including a phone survey of people who had made PDA disclosures to ICAC. Questions copied down by one of the people surveyed did give an opportunity to make criticisms of ICAC as severe as one wished. However, the sample surveyed was small; and no statistics were produced.
2. The Report
The part of the Report directly relevant to client-satisfaction is "Phase 4". A detailed analysis of the relevant parts of this Phase follows.
3. Summary of Observations, Findings, Issues and Questions
The review groups these as 13 "Items". The following are the seven main ones, condensed:
(Item 1) Why is there no list of the actual questions asked in the phone survey?
(Item 4) Why do the matters reported as included in the interview cover much less ground than the questions actually asked?
(Item 7) If ICAC cannot investigate all complaints, it would be helpful if they started giving complainants their reasons.
(Item 9) ICAC's practice of not involving the complainant in the investigation is deplorable. The complainant is the person who knows more about the corruption (if it is taking place) than anyone else except the perpetrators. Further assistance by the complainant will obviously often be essential for completing an investigation properly.
(Item 11) It is not clear what "gathering information" following a complaint means given that this phrase is not mentioned in the ICAC Act; or how it relates to "investigation" under the Act. The Report does not seem to see the main purpose of ICAC as investigating corruption. There is also concern that "gathering information" may be pre-empting the work of the Operations Review Committee and be unfair to complainants.
(Item 12) ICAC's frequent practice of simply handing the complaint back to the complainant's employer puts him/her in danger of (further) reprisals and gives an opportunity for (further) covering up. All of the complainant's superior officers should in the first instance be held in suspicion of past or potential collusion.
(Item 13) ICAC's culture and practices seem almost entirely opposed to complainants blowing the whistle on a superior officer, serving mainly to frustrate and hinder such complainants and to increase their risk of psychological stress and loss of employment. The practice of many members of Whistleblowers Australia of advising other whistleblowers not to approach ICAC is completely justified.
21 August 1998