Integrity agencies call for independent funding

The three Victorian agencies charged with overseeing and ensuring governmental integrity — the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office and the Victorian Ombudsman —  have called for more-independent funding arrangements that are accountable to Parliament rather than the government of the day.

In a statement, the agencies say that their “intention is to remove the politics from the debate, so that governments of whatever stripe cannot be accused, fairly or otherwise, of interfering with the independence of those agencies whose job it is to hold them to account”.

The agencies note that the current system of having the government rather than the Parliament decide on funding “has been a hot topic for many years” and “in the last year it has grown even hotter”.

Accordingly, the agencies have published a paper which, they say, makes the case for strengthening “the perceived and actual independence of these three officers of Parliament”.

Their top recommendation is that responsibility for their funding should be given to a new independent statutory commission or tribunal, similar to the Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal.

“All evidence, reasoning and recommendations to the Treasurer would be tabled in Parliament to promote full transparency,” the agencies say.

The call comes in the wake of debate surrounding the nature and powers of the proposed federal integrity commission, and ongoing discussion about the operation the integrity agencies in New South Wales and Queensland.

The three agency heads point out that they are not criticising their current funding levels, but rather they feel there needs to a “transparent and robust process which is apolitical, and in doing so, to provide the Parliament and the community with assurance that their respective offices have the resources they need to do their jobs well”.

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