Mr Redlich’s plea for funding puts him at stark odds with Premier Dan Andrew’s repeated assurances that IBAC has been fully backed by his government. As recently as Sunday, a spokesperson for the Premier said the government has “given IBAC the powers and resources it’s asked for.”
But Mr Redlich said that not only was IBAC unable to adequately investigate its core areas of interest— public service and police corruption and misconduct— new oversight responsibilities the agency was likely to take on following the recent royal commission into police informers would create fresh resourcing challenges.
“As Commissioner, it is perhaps my most important role to ensure IBAC has the powers and resources required to fulfil its legislative obligations. As calls on the agency to do more to expose and prevent corruption and police misconduct continue to grow, additional funding will clearly be required in coming years,” Mr Redlich said.
The agency has taken on serval major probes that have embarrassed the Andrews government and the opposition, including the Casey Council corruption scandal. IBAC is also investigating alleged abuse of taxpayer funds arising from the Somyurek Labor branch stacking affair as part of an inquiry likely to also draw in the Liberal Party.
On Monday, The Age revealed how a confidential IBAC assessment had found systemic failings with the police force’s handling of domestic violence cases involving police perpetrators. The under-funding of IBAC was also highlighted in the assessment.
The under-resourcing of IBAC was again highlighted in a 2018 bipartisan parliamentary committee report, which called on the agency to be given far greater capacity to investigate serious police misconduct. It’s recommendations have not been acted on by the Andrews government.
The government has said that it would wait until the recent royal commission into police informer management was finished until implementing police oversight reforms, although this is seen by some senior Labor insiders as a stalling tactic. The powerful Police Association has also resisted moves to increase IBAC’s police oversight role.
Mr Redlich did not directly address the politics swirling around the debate about IBAC’s role in Victoria, but made it clear he felt his agency was not fully supported.
“As IBAC’s work over the past seven years, recent Royal Commissions and other inquiries, as well as the work of other integrity agencies in Victoria and across Australia, have established beyond doubt that corruption is complex and multifaceted and wherever it occurs, adversely impacts everyone.”
“Ultimately, it is all members of our community who suffer as corruption erodes trust in the public sector to act in our best interests, wastes taxes and rates earmarked for important community projects, resulting in poor quality services or infrastructure, or we miss out on these vital public services altogether.
“Investment by governments to ensure our integrity agencies are properly resourced to do their work, is necessary and prudent.”
Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He’s won nine Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.