29 March 2023

IBAC report points to red flags in ministerial staff conduct on procurement

Transparency International Australia finds that the IBAC report tabled today in the Victorian State Parliament highlights to some serious red flags in the conduct of ministerial staff and the awarding of government procurement contracts.

The finding that the Health Workers Union (HWU), a key Labor Party ally, was awarded a major contract in 2018 without competitive tender is a textbook example of ‘grey corruption’ – behaviour which bends ethical norms to suit particular interests without actually breaking any laws.

While not technically illegal, the awarding of the contract in this manner demonstrates the importance of strong codes of conduct for public servants, the need for an integrity commissioner, and greater oversight of the decision-making process of ministerial staff.

Transparency International Australia CEO Clancy Moore said:

“The IBAC report clearly identifies this an example of grey corruption. Similar to the findings of Operation Watts, it appears that decisions were made and rules bent for to benefit the government’s political networks. Transparency International Australia encourages the Victorian Government to implement the recommendations of the report including introducing a parliamentary integrity commissioner.”

“While the findings of the report point to unethical rather than illegal behaviour, it is critical that this serious breach of public trust is substantively addressed by the Andrews Government. TIA urges increased scrutiny of ministerial staff decision making going forward.”

Transparency International Australia Board Member Professor AJ Brown said:

“The role of ministerial staff has grown over the years to have increased levels of influence over decisions made by the public service. This serious case involving a valuable government contract risks undermining the public’s trust in our democracy. There clearly needs to be stronger codes of conduct for ministerial staff with independent enforcement to ensure accountability.”