Icac cleared of maladministration over length of Gladys Berejiklian investigation
The New South Wales corruption watchdog has been cleared of maladministration after an inquiry by the inspector of the Independent Commission Against Corruption into the length of the investigation into the former premier Gladys Berejiklian.
The inspector, Gail Furness, also found Icac needed to change the way it operated, noting the “enormous” impact the investigation had on all those involved.
The Icac investigation, known as Operation Keppel, in June found Berejiklian had engaged in “serious corrupt conduct” following almost two years of investigations and multiple delays. She has maintained she served the public interest “at all times” while in office.
An investigation into the way Icac handled the inquiry was then launched.
Furness looked at whether the delays by the commission amounted to maladministration, the effectiveness and appropriateness of the way Icac acted and the presence of the media at the tabling of the report.
Furness concluded there was no maladministration and the time taken to release the report to the parliament and the public was reasonable.
“Balancing the impact with the complexity, importance and resources available, I am satisfied that the time taken to report to parliament on Operation Keppel does not amount to maladministration because while the issue is serious, it was not unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory,” she said.
However, she did say the commission could not expect to meet future key performance indicators if it continued to work in the same way.
“It has to reduce the length of submissions, rework its review process and find more efficient ways to technically produce a report at the editing and proofing stage,” Furness said.
“It has to constantly monitor its resources when completing a report and if they are inadequate to do so in a timely manner, actively seek more resources. The parliamentary joint committee and I should be informed if this occurs.”
She made three recommendations related to ways the commission could speed up processes and for her report to be made public, which it has been.
The inspector noted the delay had an “enormous” impact on those involved, citing the resignation of the premier in 2021 “because she could not predict how long it would take the commission to complete the investigation”.
“The reputation of many people continued to be affected over the months taken to complete the report and furnish it to parliament,” she said.
“The welfare of witnesses awaiting the outcome of the public inquires was no doubt impacted in various ways.”
The inspector also found the commissioner, Ruth McColl, and the commission acted in “good faith” despite having limited resources compared with a royal commission.
“I do not doubt that Ms McColl and all the commission officers engaged in assisting [to] draft the report worked hard, with attention to the task and in good faith,” Furness said.
“There is no evidence that anyone acted capriciously or irrationally.”
She also found the decision to allow media to attend the furnishing of the report in parliament was not made by the commission and therefore there had been no misconduct or maladministration in that circumstance.
The former state treasurer Matt Kean wrote to Furness in June to request the investigation, after complaining about Berejiklian’s treatment by the watchdog.