South Australia’s corruption watchdog has flagged changes to the way his office deals with the new State Government in the wake of his scathing report into the Oakden scandal.
Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Bruce Lander QC, had already briefed new Premier Steven Marshall and Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, and detailed plans to hold regular meetings with ministers about “trends and issues of concern” in their portfolios.
Last month, the commissioner’s blistering report into maladministration at the Oakden aged care facility made damning findings against five people and the public authority managing the centre.
“As I said in my Oakden investigation report, I was astonished at the extent to which persons in senior positions were not aware of the systemic issues occurring at the facility,” Mr Lander said.
“As a consequence of my investigation, I formed the view that it could not be assumed that information relating to serious impropriety in public administration was being communicated to relevant ministers.
“I decided that, to the extent that we are able to do so, my office and the [Office for Public Integrity] should play a part in ensuring ministers are informed.”
Mr Lander was particularly brutal in his criticism of former mental health minister Leesa Vlahos, who he described as “deliberately untruthful”, as well as “belligerent and aggressive”.
But the commissioner said his office would not disclose information about ongoing investigations, if there was a risk it would jeopardise inquiries.
It is understood the proposal for regular briefings is seen as a way to pre-emptively stop maladministration, before full corruption investigations are launched.
The change would also allow the commissioner and his office to contradict any minister who alleged they were unaware of reported issues in their departments and agencies.
The new Attorney-General, Ms Chapman, said she and the Premier had met with Mr Lander to discuss their election promise to allow public hearings when the commissioner advises they should occur.
“We intend to deliver on our plans for open ICAC hearings, and we will work through the legislative changes required as a matter of priority,” Ms Chapman said in a statement.
“The former Labor government had a shameful record on transparency and accountability measures, and its constant attempts at frustrating the ICAC’s wish for open hearings into maladministration was disgraceful.”