Australia corruption watchdog calls for audit of public sector staff following investigation News
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Australia corruption watchdog calls for audit of public sector staff following investigation

An Australian corruption watchdog urged the Northern Territory (NT) government on Thursday to audit personnel records of public officers with certain role qualifications. The move follows findings of corruption within the recruitment processes in the public sector.

The NT Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) released the findings of an independent investigation, concluding that a public officer had falsified qualifications to be appointed to three separate high-ranking positions between 2013 and 2018. The ICAC made recommendations to address corruption in relation to recruitment processes and urged public bodies to audit and verify personnel records which are “contingent upon the holding of a particular qualification.” In 2022, the ICAC released a General Report outlining the risks of corruption in recruitment. At the time, they made several recommendations for public bodies.

Following the ICAC’s recommendation, NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles issued the following statement to the ABC:

The Territory Labor established the ICAC, and upholds the importance of the ICAC. We will review the practices given the findings, we are always working to improve our processes.

Fyles did not verify whether the NT government would audit employee records. Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Michael Riches said that public bodies should have “robust processes” when recruiting, and that “there must be greater accountability imposed upon members of a selection panel to ensure that adequate verification checks have been undertaken.”

Riches stated that the public officer mentioned in the findings created false documents to prove the existence of qualifications they alleged to hold. Riches explained:

The officer’s application included reference to holding a particular tertiary qualification. No checks were conducted to verify whether that qualification was in fact held. The purported existence of that qualification figured in the selection panel’s decision to recommend the officer’s appointment.

The investigation found that in 2013, the officer successfully applied for the role of chief financial officer in a public body, and the purported qualifications were never verified. In 2017, the same officer applied for the position of chief financial officer in a public body, which required the tertiary qualification and a membership as a chartered accountant or certified practicing accountant (CPA). The officer falsely asserted to have both qualifications, and produced a forged statutory declaration to verify such qualifications. In 2018 the officer applied for–and received–the position of chief operating officer, and included the same falsified qualifications which the body failed to verify.

The individual and the public offices they worked for were not identified due to the seniority of the roles.