Corruption watchdog lashes SA Health

ICAC Commissioner Bruce Lander has blasted SA Health's poor governance and "troubling" operations

South Australia's embattled health department has been lashed by the state's corruption watchdog for its poor governance, bad record-keeping and vague and ambiguous policies.

A report into SA Health by Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander has been released with Mr Lander describing its entire operations as "troubling" and said its issues had frustrated his attempts to identify corruption.

"I have embarked upon a number of investigations where I have suspected SA Health public officers have engaged in corruption but those investigations have been frustrated by SA Health's poor record-keeping and vague and ambiguous practices and policies," he said.

"On too many occasions I have been told at a senior level that SA Health cannot be sure whether the particular conduct had been condoned or tolerated.

"Too many decisions appear to have been made for the sake of convenience, or to suit sectional interests, whilst insufficient regard has been had as to whether those decisions constitute an appropriate use of public funds."

Mr Lander said some parts of SA Health had lost sight of the fact that the touchstone for the appropriate use of public funds was the public interest.

"Existing governance and probity arrangements appear to be insufficient and characterised by vagueness and uncertainty," he said.

"Ill-defined documents create environments in which poor conduct and bad administration are silently supported and allowed to flourish.

"I would regard the situation in SA Health as one characterised by troubling ambiguity.

"Through years of experience, it is known that dishonest and improper behaviour flourishes in situations where practices, policies and procedures are surrounded by ambiguity."

Mr Lander's report is expected to increase pressure on the state government to order a wider and more comprehensive investigation of SA Health, possibly even a royal commission.

Opposition Health Spokesman Chris Picton said Mr Lander painted a damning view of SA Health and the government must fund a full inquiry.

While SA-BEST MP Connie Bonaros said only a royal commission would do.

"According to Commissioner Lander, not only is clinical care being severely impacted but public servants are escaping prosecution for corruption," she said.

"They are the sort of serious issues that you hear about in third world countries not a first-world economy like South Australia."

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the government would establish a "cross-agency task force" to drive change within SA Health.

"This is change that will be driven fundamentally by clinicians, not by lawyers," he said.

Mr Wade said Mr Lander's report had highlighted cultures and behaviours that had built up in SA Health over many years.