After the Senate passed the Greens bill to establish a federal anti-corruption commission and the government faces new pressure to establish a strong, independent anti-corruption body, new research shows that the existing Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) is no substitute for a National Integrity Commission with teeth.
ACLEI has limited jurisdiction and its resources, profile and powers are “totally insufficient” to fully investigate alleged corruption.
The report, ACLEI is no substitute for a National Integrity Commission by Australia Institute researcher Bill Browne, shows that a National Integrity Commission is needed for allegations of corruption to be fully aired and investigated.
ACLEI has insufficient resources and powers, including:
ACLEI’s definition of corrupt conduct is more limited than the definitions of the state-based anti-corruption commissions.
ACLEI cannot refer cases to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but only to the AFP Commissioner.
ACLEI cannot make findings of corrupt conduct, but only refer misconduct to agency managers.
Because ACLEI is under-resourced, it relies on the AFP to carry out its major investigations. Since ACLEI is responsible for overseeing the AFP (and other agencies that, like the AFP, come under the Home Affairs department), this represents a potential conflict of interest.
ACLEI has never, since its establishment in 2006, held any public hearing of an investigation.
“Integrity and accountability are critical features of a healthy democracy. Without a Federal Integrity Commission with teeth, public trust and confidence in our Federal Parliament will continue eroding,” says the Hon Stephen Charles AO QC, Former Judge of Victorian Court of Appeal and Member of The Australia Institute National Integrity Committee.
“There are a multitude of ways in which ACLEI is insufficient to fully investigated alleged corruption—it does not have the power to investigate ministers or former ministers, ministerial staff, MPs, government contractors or the judiciary and it is responsible for.
“The potential for conflict of interest with ACLEI is a serious matter, as the body relies on the AFP to carry out its major investigations but is responsible for integrity and corruption in the AFP and other law enforcement agencies.
“Given the extremely low levels of public trust in politics, the establishment of a National Integrity Commission should be an urgent matter for the Parliament.
“The Australia Institute National Integrity Committee’s Implementation Plan outlines how a National Integrity Commission will strengthen and work alongside existing integrity agencies, and incorporate ACLEI. Building on previous design work, there is now ample evidence that a National Integrity Commission with broad jurisdiction and strong investigative powers can, and should, be established.”