Former SA ICAC clashes with MPs

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A former corruption watchdog in South Australia has clashed with members of a parliamentary committee examining the performance of the office of the Independent Commissioner of Corruption.

Bruce Lander, who ended his term as SA's ICAC in September last year, called for the chair of the committee, SA-BEST MP Frank Pangallo, to recuse himself because of a perception of bias.

Mr Lander said such action was necessary because Mr Pangallo had actively campaigned for the establishment of the committee which is examining the damage, harm or adverse outcomes resulting from ICAC investigations.

"I'm asking him to recuse himself because of a perception of apprehended bias," the former commissioner told the committee hearing on Monday.

He said any fair-minded person might think that Mr Pangallo might be unable to bring an open-mind to issues before the ongoing inquiry.

However, Mr Pangallo objected to Mr Lander's submission.

"This is a parliament, not a courtroom, " he said. "I have absolutely no intention of recusing myself."

In a sometimes tense and combative hearing, Mr Lander also clashed with the committee over his desire to give all his evidence in public, despite the intention of committee members to hear some of the material behind closed doors.

Mr Lander's appearance before the committee came after sweeping changes were approved in parliament to the operation of the anti-corruption agency.

The changes, which passed both houses unanimously with little or no debate last week, had been introduced by Mr Pangallo.

He said previously his bill streamlined the powers and responsibilities of the ICAC to focus only on matters of serious and systemic corruption.

"Anti-corruption and integrity agencies have a critical role to play in our society because serious corruption and misconduct in our public sector must not be allowed to flourish unchecked," he said.

"However, after eight years of substantial expenditure, secret investigations, underwhelming results, controversy and criticism, changes to the way ICAC functions are appropriate."

Mr Pangallo said his bill also provided mechanisms to protect people from reputational damage.

But current commissioner Ann Vanstone said the new measures would essentially dismantle her office and rob the public of an efficient integrity agency.

Ms Vanstone was particularly critical of changes she said would shield politicians from investigation at a time when two state MPs were before the courts on charges related to ICAC inquiries.

"The first thing about this bill, which hits one in the eye, is that the shelter for politicians, that is parliamentary privilege, is to be built into a 20-foot wall," she said.

"An immediate aim seems to be to protect themselves from scrutiny."

Ms Vanstone was also critical of proposed restrictions on her ability to speak publicly about investigations and said some of the changes would add considerably to the costs associated with keeping checks on corruption and maladministration.

"Let me be clear as to my position. If this or a similar bill is passed by the parliament, it will be plain that politicians do not want an ICAC in South Australia," she told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

"It's as simple as that. This bill dismantles ICAC and the whole scheme designed to govern public integrity."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting