GOVERNMENT ADOPTS THE PROUST INTEGRITY MODEL

Posted on 02. Jun, 2010 in News

The Victorian Government will adopt the Proust Model for public sector integrity – including the establishment of a Victorian Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission (VIACC) – as the next step in greater accountability in Government, the Premier, John Brumby, announced today.

Releasing the report today, Mr Brumby thanked Special Commissioner Elizabeth Proust and Public Sector Standards Commissioner Peter Allen for their Review of Victoria’s Integrity and Anti-Corruption System, which has acknowledged the strengths of existing integrity agencies, but identified gaps in current arrangements.

“The Proust Model provides a commonsense roadmap, which proposes new arrangements for greater coverage, and provides better coordination and oversight,” Mr Brumby said.

“Our Government has time and again taken tough decisions to drive greater accountability and attack the causes of maladministration, misconduct and corruption in public administration.

“The former Premier, Steve Bracks, significantly improved on the public sector accountability measures he inherited. On coming to Government, he restored the independence of the Auditor General, the Ombudsman and the Director of Public Prosecutions, reformed freedom of information and established a whistleblower protection regime.

“In 2004, Mr Bracks established the Office of Police Integrity and significantly increased the powers and resources of the Victorian Ombudsman.

“Those arrangements were right for the times, but the time is right for further reforms to take public accountability and integrity to the next level.”

Key recommendations under the Proust Model include:

  • Establishing a Victorian Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission (VIACC) to investigate allegations of serious misconduct and corruption in the public sector and local government, including whistleblower complaints. The VIACC will comprise of three independent officers of the Victorian Parliament: a new Public Sector Integrity Commissioner; Director, Police Integrity; and Chief Municipal Inspector;
  • Establishing a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner to receive and investigate complaints about the conduct of Members of Parliament and their publicly-funded employees;
  • Establishing the new Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, who would also be the inaugural VIACC chair, and would be responsible for gathering intelligence and investigating serious misconduct and corruption in the Victorian public sector, including through the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001;
  • Extending the jurisdiction of the Director, Police Integrity, to include unsworn, as well as sworn, employees of Victoria Police;
  • Ensuring the Chief Municipal Inspector has responsibility for gathering intelligence and investigating misconduct and corruption involving local government councillors and employees; and
  • Modernising the Ombudsman Act 1973 to provide further clarity around the Ombudsman’s procedures and jurisdiction.

Under the Proust Model, the new VIACC and the other integrity bodies will be part of an Integrity Coordination Board to strengthen coordination, cooperation and information sharing across the integrity system.

The Integrity Coordination Board will be established in legislation and comprise of the Ombudsman, the Auditor General, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, the Director Police Integrity, the Chief Municipal Inspector, the Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, the Public Sector Standards Commissioner.

A new all-party Parliamentary Committee will monitor the powers and functions of the VIACC. A new Investigations Inspector will absorb the roles of the Special Investigations Monitor and will audit the operations of the VIACC and monitor the use of coercive powers.

Mr Brumby said the Deputy Premier and Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, would take carriage within Cabinet of implementing the reforms – with Public Sector Standards Commissioner Peter Allen to determine and oversee the implementation plan.

“Our Government is proud of its record of increasing openness and transparency in public administration in Victoria, and these reforms are the next step in our work,” Mr Brumby said.

“These reforms will build on key actions I’ve taken since becoming Premier, including the Annual Statement of Government Intentions, broadcasting Parliament, the Lobbyist Register, the Ministerial Staff Code of Conduct and the new Members of Parliament (Standards) Bill.”

Mr Hulls said the Proust review coincided with action the Brumby Labor Government was taking to increase transparency and accountability in Victoria’s justice system.

“This year we will introduce legislation into the Parliament to create a new Judicial Commission of Victoria, delivering on our commitment in Justice Statement 2 to review arrangements for handling complaints against judicial misconduct and unprofessional behaviour,” Mr Hulls said.

“The Judicial Commission will investigate complaints against Victorian judges, magistrates and VCAT members.”

Mr Hulls said that while many of the reforms required complex changes to laws, the Brumby Labor Government would move immediately on legislation to establish a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner.

“I will also work with Mr Allen to draw up an implementation plan to deal with the complicated Constitutional and legislative matters underpinning these reforms, as well as establishing appropriate interim measures,” Mr Hulls said.

“While the Proust Model outlines a commonsense roadmap for these reforms, our Government intends to consult widely on the plan before settling on the finer details.”

Mr Hulls said the transition to the Proust Model would provide for the continued operation of the Local Government Inspectorate and Compliance Inspectorate, the Office of Police Integrity, the Special Investigations Monitor and the Ombudsman.

The Victorian Government’s Record of Reform to Increase Public Sector and Parliamentary Accountability and Transparency

Restored and entrenched the powers of Victoria’s key independent watchdogs – the Ombudsman, Auditor-General and Director of Public Prosecutions.

Established a regime to protect whistleblowers who expose public officials engaging in improper conduct.

Removed the gag from public servants and established the State Services Authority to oversee good governance and ethical behaviour across the Victorian public sector.

Established the Office of Police Integrity and the Special Investigations Monitor to strengthen the role previously played by the Deputy Ombudsman.

Introduced the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 to ensure human rights are valued and protected within Government and the community.

Strengthened the powers of the Office of Police Integrity as the investigative body tasked with exposing police corruption and creating a corruption-resistant Victoria Police.

Significantly increased the powers and resources of the Ombudsman to address issues of maladministration and allegations of corruption in the public sector.

Opened up Parliamentary procedures through an annual Statement of Government Intentions and live web broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings.

Commenced quarterly release on the Internet of details of Ministerial overseas travel.

Created an internet register of all Government appointments, together with rates of pay for all people appointed by Government.

Established the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate to focus on compliance with the Local Government Act 1989 by councils including spot audits, and new rules for managing potential conflicts of interest.

Introduced the Victorian Government Professional Lobbyist Code of Conduct requiring all lobbyists join the publicly available Lobbyists Register.

Implemented a Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff to spell out the obligations on parliamentary and ministerial staff. 

Introduced the Members of Parliament (Standards Bill) 2010 to modernise and strengthen ethical rules, Codes of Conduct and disclosure requirements for all MP’s.

Developed, through the State Services Authority, a ‘good practice checklist’ to assist public sector bodies to address the three key aspects of governance in procurement: culture, skills and knowledge; risk management; and audit.

Established the Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Policy Framework for the Victorian Public Sector and established the framework.

Commenced a review of Victoria’s Whistleblower Act.

Established the Elizabeth Proust review of Victoria’s integrity and anti-corruption system.

Integrity and Anti-Corruption System Review:

Implementation

  • The Government has received the Report from Elizabeth Proust and Peter Allen, the Public Sector Standards Commissioner, on Victoria’s integrity and anti-corruption system (the Proust Report).

 

  • The Report recommends a number of reforms to strengthen Victoria’s integrity system. The Government accepts these recommendations in principle. An Implementation Taskforce, headed by Peter Allen, and supported by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, will further consider the recommendations and prepare for their implementation.

 

  • Ensuring confidence in the transparency and integrity of the public sector is a core responsibility of government. The Government is seeking to improve the strength and effectiveness of integrity bodies in order to achieve the highest levels of public sector accountability. As recommended by the Proust Report, the Government will immediately initiate the preparation of full costings and an implementation plan for the proposed reforms.

 

  • The Government has already considered submissions received in response to the discussion paper on Judicial oversight released in November 2009. Accordingly, the Government’s first step will be to introduce a Bill to create a new Judicial Commission. The Judicial Commission will receive, assess and investigate complaints about judicial officers. This initiative is supported by the Proust Report.

 

  • Also this year, the Government will release an exposure draft bill on a key recommendation of the Proust report – the establishment of the office of the Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner. The Proust Report recommended that the Commissioner will be able to receive and, where appropriate, investigate complaints about the conduct of Members of Parliament and their staff.

 

  • Next year, the Government will implement the broader recommendations of the Proust Report, including the establishment of the VIACC, by reforming Victoria’s integrity bodies to strengthen oversight across the public sector.

 

  • The Deputy Premier will oversee amendments to existing legislation, and the development of any further legislation, to facilitate these reforms, through a new Cabinet Committee. Peter Allen, will also have a key role in implementation planning, to provide that transitional arrangements for these reforms are handled appropriately.

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