8th February 2022

A recent article in the Australian newspaper, ‘Tragic mayor: a second warning missed by IBAC’, highlights serious anomalies in the system that we use to manage corruption.

In short, this is a tragic story where an IBAC investigation has been dragged out for over two years into allegations of corruption within the council of the City of Casey and the relationship that some within the council had with a property developer.

Our opinions are based on the reporting of these tragic circumstances.

If the relationships were corrupt, then the perpetrators should be charged with the offences, and the courts can determine whether they are guilty as charged or not, as the case may be.

When the entity charged with investigating corruption becomes overzealous chasing shadows in their pursuit of ‘evidence‘, they are usurping the Courts’ role.

A common trait, bordering on Noble corruption, is where Investigators form an alleged crime hypothesis and blindly pursue an outcome based on their assumptions alone. Any evidence that may be contrary to their theory is rejected.

There is nothing wrong with an investigator forming a hypothesis; most good investigators do just that. It only becomes a problem when everything else is dismissed or not pursued should it deviate from the original theory. When that happens, a fine line appears, and Nobel corruption’s evilness sails into view.

In this story, it would appear the organisation itself has engaged in this practice.

Again, we see the use or misuse of the ‘public hearings’ weapon that IBAC possesses. Conducted like a ‘show trial’ in the public glare; witnesses are grilled even though they have already been subjected to the extensive coercive powers of IBAC in private.

If a suspect or witness has not provided the evidence that IBAC deems appropriate in a private hearing, the only reasonable conclusion is that the ‘show trials’ are revenge.

Parading people in an IBAC Public hearing is a version of modern-day stocks. Instead of throwing rotten tomatoes at the not convicted victim, they destroy the persons character. You can wash off tomato slop but never ever recover from the IBAC equivalent.

The basic concept of our Law is usurped by IBAC, which assumes the role of investigator, arbitrator of guilt or innocence and sentencing before the guilt or innocence is determined by a court. The sentence imposed is, their character is dashed beyond repair.

We emphasise they have not been convicted of anything when subjected to this humiliation, and irrespective of what they say, the outcome is the same – character assassination in the extreme with their guilt or otherwise apparently irrelevant.

It would be the same if Police investigating an alleged criminal act decided to incarcerate somebody without presenting them to a court. The community would be rightly outraged and should be equally outraged toward the IBAC’ ‘show trial’ process.

This process may be legal, but the legislation must be amended to eliminate the practice altogether. There has been no evidence that we know of that ‘show trials’ lead to improved conviction rates for IBAC. Not that it would be a reasonable justification if it exists.

Should a person be charged with an offence as a result of a ‘show trial’, then the option of a jury to determine their guilt or innocence is compromised as the public hearings have boundless potential of tainting any juror.

There are many disturbing aspects to this case as reported. If the Investigators could not obtain sufficient evidence in two years, that in itself is a disgrace and strongly indicates the likelihood of serious crimes being committed was substantially diminished. Flogging a lost cause, it would seem.

This lack of sound management decision making was compounded by the warnings of the impact on suspects on multiple occasions. This was further aggravated by the matters being brought to the attention of the Inspectorate responsible for overseeing IBAC.

It took the Inspectorate seven months to respond to the complaint and concluded that IBAC had no fault in a ten-page letter. It could have been twenty pages, but the facts remain the nexus between the death of the former Casey Mayor and the IBAC performance, and that of the Inspectorate must now be examined.

Whether the former Mayor was guilty of any criminal offences will never be tested or determined.

The actions of IBAC and the Inspectorate must be reined in, as nobody, irrespective of the crime, should pay the ultimate price, aggravated by the fact that the former Mayor was never convicted, so in the eyes of the Law is innocent, but that does not seem to apply to our corruption watchdog.

We regularly hear from the IBAC Commissioner that the lack of funds negatively impacts operations. Perhaps more reasoned and effective management decisions may alleviate some of his problems.

The adage of the farmer who thought a couple of scrubbers had gone rogue and jumped out of the cattle yard and headed bush is apt.

The farmer spent hours trying to find them to no avail. Returning to the yard, he finds the rest of the herd had escaped and headed bush. He had left the gate open. Most probably, the scrubbers walked out if they did at all? He would never find out.

We are aware that a specific Local Government Inspectorate is established to investigate corruption in Local Government that also has substantial powers. With the plaintive cry of IBAC over funding, perhaps if they had referred this matter to the Inspectorate responsible, this saga may not have been so drawn out.

Perhaps instead of chasing evidentiary ‘rabbits down burrows’, pursuing minor crimes and giving all the appearances of an organisation with a befuddled decision-making process and clearly incompetent investigation skills, a detailed independent examination of the whole Corruption administration must be undertaken as a matter of urgency because from what we have seen it just isn’t working for us, the ones that pay for the poor service and want corruption curtailed.

IBAC sent a draft copy of their investigation to the former Mayor, it would seem the contents contributed to her demise.

It is highly probable that this draft report was sent to elicit a response that could amount to admissions of guilt because they had insufficient evidence to charge her. It would make for an interesting read to see what put her over the edge.

These events highlight the need for an urgent independent review.