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Andrews warned not to miss corruption reforms deadline

Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

Victorian integrity agencies have heaped pressure on the Andrews government not to drag its feet on enacting key recommendations from a bombshell Labor branch-stacking report.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and Victorian Ombudsman sounded the alarm in a progress report into their joint Operation Watts investigation, tabled in state parliament on Thursday.

The final Operation Watts report, released in July last year, laid bare a raft of unethical and inappropriate behaviour and the misuse of taxpayer resources within a Labor faction.

At the time, Premier Daniel Andrews apologised and confirmed the government would accept all 21 recommendations, including establishing a parliamentary integrity commissioner and a new offence for ministers who allow staff to undertake party-specific activities.

The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) and Department of Parliamentary Services revealed only two of the recommendations have been acquitted to date, with work under way on at least 12 others.

Many proposed changes require legislation, which would need to be passed by December to ensure the reforms are fully implemented in line with the government's promised time frame of June 2024.

Five sitting weeks remain on this year's calendar.

"It seems unlikely the government will meet its deadline," the progress report said.

Ombudsman Deborah Glass said it was a mixed report card, but noted the integrity bodies had not seen "much signs of life" towards setting up a parliamentary ethics committee and commission.

"There is certainly a contrast between the eagerness of the government to accept the recommendations ... and what has happened since," she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Mr Andrews said legislation is under active consideration by cabinet and will be implemented to the outlined time frame, with an update to be delivered before the end of the year.

"The heads of integrity agencies are not members of the cabinet," he told reporters.

The premier denied there had been a lack of communication with the agencies, pointing to a letter from DPC secretary Jeremi Moule within the report.

"It's not my business or my practice to be briefing outside agencies that are not elected on what's happening at cabinet next Monday," Mr Andrews said.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto is writing to Mr Andrews to urge him to meet with himself and other party leaders to discuss how to speed up the reforms.

"What's clear from today's progress report is that Daniel Andrews doesn't really want to tackle corruption, he wants to bury corruption," he said.

The Victorian Greens' integrity spokesman Tim Read suggested Labor was on track to miss its mid-2024 deadline, despite non-government MPs being uncharacteristically united on the reforms.

"Three damning anti-corruption reports, and almost a decade after the 'red-shirts' scandal, the Andrews government is still offering increasingly implausible reasons why they can't implement the most basic of political integrity reforms," he said.

Operation Watts was launched after former Andrews government minister and factional powerbroker Adem Somyurek was exposed handing over cash and using parliamentary employees to create fake branch members and amass political influence.

The practice, known as branch stacking, is not illegal but is against Labor party rules.

Mr Somyurek quit the party in June 2020 before he could be expelled. His factional allies Robin Scott and Marlene Kairouz also departed cabinet.

The watchdogs did not refer Mr Somyurek and Ms Kairouz for possible criminal prosecution, citing the high threshold for proving corruption in court based on current laws.