Give Integrity a Fair Go

Persons holding an office in the public sector, either elected or appointed, do so in a position of trust. They therefore must expect to be under some scrutiny as to the integrity they exercise in carrying out that office. At the same time they should not expect to be subjected to unfair and unfounded allegations merely for some other party to gain political advantage. To give integrity a fair go means having due process to enable the exposure of wrong-doing but also protecting the innocent from slander.

In Queensland this aspect of government is currently receiving attention from at least two quarters. The Deputy Premier has commissioned a review panel to develop improvements to the process for dealing with complaints involving the conduct of local government councillors and the State’s Crime and Corruption Commission is exploring whether the practice of publicising investigations before they are completed should be reviewed.

Complaints against Councillors

ipswichcouncildtsonlineIn the first instance the current process has become very complex through a series of legislative rules involving a number of administrative and investigatory bodies. This complexity has not yielded the efficient and fair system hoped for. The Review Panel has conducted extensive research and produced a discussion paper which highlights the problems with the current processes. It also canvasses some options for improving the accountability of both councillors who compromise their integrity and persons who make frivolous and vexatious complaints.

Ipswich Mayor Cr Paul Pisasale was particularly vocal during the 2016 local government elections about the use of what he saw as politically inspired and unsubstantiated allegations directed toward him.

The discussion paper can be found on the Queensland Government Website. Submissions are invited and can be lodged by 23rd September 2016.

A Fair Go for Public Officials or constraint on free speech?

The issue being considered by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) is whether the procedures for investigating complaints against public officials should be subject to some confidentiality in their early stages. This follows a growing trend of political opponents using smear tactics during election campaigns to initiate a CCC investigation that places a cloud of suspicion over a current office holder. In some cases this is done without any real evidence being offered to substantiate the allegation. By the time the CCC determines that there is no case to answer the damage has already been done to the reputation of the office holder, and perhaps even affected the results of the election.

freedom-of-speech1-205x300The Commission is considering whether such allegations and investigations should be held confidential from public exposure until such time as their investigation is completed and the allegations tested. This would provide something of a fair go to allow the “defendant” the presumption of innocence without publicly staining their integrity until the complaint is proven. At the same time the CCC must consider whether that confidentiality would be likely to impact on the principle of freedom of speech and the public interest.

The Commission has announced that it will hold a public forum on 6 and 7 October 2016 to discuss whether publicising allegations of corrupt conduct is in the public interest. Details of the submissions already received in response to their own discussion paper can be found on their website.

Give Integrity a Fair Go

Everyone expects their public officials to act with integrity and for there to be avenues of recourse and complaint if they don’t. At the same time the idea of ensuring that even public figures get a fair go in being protected from unfair and unsubstantiated allegations of improper or corrupt conduct should be the counter balance.

Give integrity a fair go

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