One of the roles of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is to investigate and expose corrupt conduct in the NSW public sector. Whilst the ICAC cannot prosecute you, it may recommend prosecution to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). ICAC Hearings have broad powers to investigate any allegation or circumstance that implies that corrupt conduct might have occurred.
Some recent examples of the ICAC investigations include Operation Keppel, where we saw NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian appearing before the the ICAC in Sydney.
What is the ICAC?
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is an independent organisation established by the NSW Government in 1988.
The Government founded ICAC with the purpose of protecting public interest, preventing breaches of public trust and promoting accountability of public officials and Government workers. The ICAC broadly operates to extend to all NSW public sector agencies, their employees and contract staff. This includes persons employed in government departments, state-owned corporations, local councils, members of Parliament, ministers, the Judiciary and the Governor.
The establishment of the ICAC required the Government to create the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (‘the ICAC Act’). This is the primary piece of legislation governing the ICAC’s operations.
The principal objects of this Act are—
(a) to promote the integrity and accountability of public administration by constituting an Independent Commission Against Corruption as an independent and accountable body—
(i) to investigate, expose and prevent corruption involving or affecting public authorities and public officials, and
(ii) to educate public authorities, public officials and members of the public about corruption and its detrimental effects on public administration and on the community, and
(b) to confer on the Commission special powers to inquire into allegations of corruption.
Independent from political intervention
The ICAC is a publicly funded organisation that is independent. Its design is to operate outside of the direction of politicians and business. The ICAC identifies its independence as an essential feature. This is necessary to preserve community confidence that the ICAC is not influenced by the Government to operate in a particular way, or to a specific agenda aligned with Government.
Functions of the ICAC include:
- Investigation into allegations or complaints of corrupt conduct, conduct connected to corrupt conduct and/or conduct that allows, encourages or causes corrupt conduct, including the issuing of search warrants;
- Investigations referred to the ICAC by both Houses of NSW Parliament;
- Compulsory examinations and public inquiries in relation to ICAC investigations requiring witnesses to participate and give evidence to the ICAC;
- Applying to a court for an order for the disposal of property if it appears to the ICAC that no person is lawfully entitled to the property;
- To communicate publicly the results of investigations undertaken by the ICAC;
- Making referrals for prosecution and/or disciplinary action against persons where adverse findings are made by the ICAC;
- To examine the laws, practices and procedures of public authorities and public officials. This is in order to identify corrupt conduct and promote review of laws or practices that may be conducive to corrupt conduct;
- To provide guidance to public authorities and officials and advise on changes to practices or procedures. The aim here is to reduce the likelihood of corruption and promote integrity and good practice in public administration;
- Preserving public support in combating corruption and promoting integrity and good practice in public administration;
- To develop, deliver, participate, and encourage educational or advisory programs in line with the purposes of the ICAC.
Right to silence is not fully available in ICAC hearings
If you receive a summons to give evidence at a compulsory examination or public inquiry, ICAC will normally allow you to have legal representation. If answering questions or producing documents might incriminate you, then you should arrange legal representation. It is a criminal offence to fail to attend the hearing or to refuse to answer relevant questions. However, you may object to certain questions from the ICAC barrister or other examiner. O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors can represent you at the hearing to ensure the protection of your rights.
If you’re the subject of an allegation of corrupt conduct, you or your lawyer will have the opportunity to examine the witnesses who make the allegation. If there is a possibility of an adverse finding made against you, Counsel Assisting the ICAC will prepare submissions that set out the potential adverse findings. Then, you or your lawyer can make submissions in response. In this situation, it is advisable that you engage a lawyer. O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors provides these services, including engaging a barrister if needed.
We have experience in commissions of inquiry
O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors can also provide you with expert representation at any other inquisitorial body. These include such bodies as a Royal Commission, or the NSW Crime Commission or the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. In conclusion, of all lawyers in Australia, there would be very few, if any, who have done more commission work than our solicitors in all probability.
Contact O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281 to set up a free appointment with the defence lawyers in our Sydney office. 24 hour phone / text: 0421 373 961