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on the loss of trust …


The Beagle Editor, Our latest media release might be of interest to those in the Eurobodalla who, like us, have absolutely no confidence in any of the organisations responsible for ensuring public sector integrity in NSW that it has dealt with, be it ICAC, the NSW Ombudsman or the Office of Local Government (OLG). The continuing examples we read reported by The Beagle of Codes of Conduct and official complaints against Council staff or Councillors clearly indicates that what we see in the Bega shire appears to be endemic in NSW Local Government. on the loss of trust …

Last week, a former Court of Appeals Justice at the Supreme Court of Victoria, David Harper, claimed that "the lack of a federal anti-corruption agency remains a reason why we have never come close to being corruption-free ..."

Coincidental to Mr Harper’s public comments, a survey conducted by the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) found that 40 per cent of past, present & prospective suppliers to government agencies believed corruption in public sector procurement to be either a major or moderate problem.

At the same time, a survey conducted by Transparency International last month revealed that 56% of Australian respondents reported that they had witnessed or suspected favourable treatment from government in exchange for donations or support & that almost 85% said they believed some, most or all federal members of parliament were corrupt.

In publicly supporting the establishment of a federal anti-corruption body, Mr Harper asserts that the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) remains the most effective of all the state-based anti-corruption bodies.

While the Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) supports the call for the establishment of a federal anti-corruption watchdog, it does not agree that the NSW ICAC is an ideal model upon which to base such an organisation.

As the BVSRRA has previously made clear, it has absolutely no confidence in any of the organisations responsible for ensuring public sector integrity in NSW that it has dealt with, be it ICAC, the NSW Ombudsman or the Office of Local Government (OLG).

The refusal of ICAC to investigate allegations of corruption involving Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC) & developers, as well as abuses of the states planning processes, coupled with the refusal of the NSW Ombudsman & the OLG to investigate council’s actions on other occasions, has done absolutely nothing to establish confidence in the integrity of those institutions.

The BVSRRA is firmly of the view that the integrity of those organisations has been fatally compromised by politicians in successive NSW governments, to the point where the protection of the public interest is the least of their concerns.

Indeed, as stated previously, the BVSRRA believes that the refusal of those organisations to respond to the genuine concerns of residents & ratepayers about the actions of council has convinced it that their primary purpose is to shield public officials from proper scrutiny, while ensuring that they are not held accountable for their actions.

The BVSRRA believes that those calling for the establishment of a “federal ICAC” have a naïve understanding of what corruption actually looks like, more often than not convinced that it’s all about “bent” public officials & money in brown paper bags, when the real threat lies in a high level, systemic attack on the integrity of government through the weakening of the institutions responsible for defending & protecting the public interest by

  • variously reducing or threatening to reduce their budgets;

  • making political appointments to senior public sector positions, where the loyalty of the appointee to a minister or the government trumps their commitment to the public interest;

  • conspiring to undermine & abuse due process;

  • using fixed term employment contracts to influence & compromise the behaviour of senior public officials;

  • actively undermining processes & controls that foster, maintain & strengthen public accountability for both performance & best practice standards of governance; &

  • the systemic abuse of the public grants system & the corrupt use of the public treasury to brazenly pork-barrel the electorate & “buy” political loyalty, cooperation & support.

While the BVSRRA believes that all of the above behaviours have become increasingly common & have collectively contributed to the collapse in public trust of politicians & governments at all levels, it also believes that the biggest single threat to the integrity of our system of government is the unrelenting attack being mounted against openness & transparency: the key to ensuring public accountability. John Richardson Secretary/Treasurer Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

#Opinion #Bega

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