Risk profile says councils a vulnerable target for organised crime

Victoria’s IBAC has highlighted vulnerabilities for local government, including becoming the target of organised crime, as part of a suite of new resources highlighting public sector corruption risks.

Dr Linda Timothy

Key general corruption risks for local government include “organised crime groups cultivating relationships with council staff and councillors to gain access to information, systems or commodities,” the corruption watchdog’s newly published risk profile warns.

“Local councils hold valuable personal identifying information (such as addresses, phone numbers etc) and decisions by council can have monetary impacts on businesses and individuals.”

Other pressures relate to decisions around planning, IBAC says, while the changing workplace environment, with more staff working remotely, has also heightened the risk of confidential information being misused.

For council staff, risks are centred around dodgy procurement practices; misuse of council assets including cars, machinery and technology; misuse of grants, gifts and hospitality; favouritism in recruitment, and inappropriate issuing of licences and permits.

Councillors, meanwhile, face risks involving conflict of interest and misuse of position.

2,794 allegations

IBAC says between July 2018 and December 22 approximately 11 per cent of public sector allegations it received concerned local government, although not all of them met the threshold for corruption.

In that time, the watchdog received 2794 allegations against councils, of which more than 61 per cent were dismissed and 29 per cent were referred to other investigatory bodies.

The local government sector is one of 15 government sectors that will be covered as part of IBAC’s project to develop sector-specific corruption awareness.

Others profiles released so far include police, transport, education and human services.

“The effective prevention of corruption and misconduct ultimately requires public agencies to take primary responsibility for their own prevention strategies,” Executive Director Prevention and Communication Dr Linda Timothy said.

Overviews and prevention strategies

IBAC developed the profiles using data collected from allegations, investigations, and its corruption prevention work.

They include an overview of each sector; its specific corruption and misconduct risks; general information on allegations IBAC has received ; and insights from investigations and reviews.

The snapshots also provide corruption prevention strategies and tailored ways to detect corruption in each individual sector.

“These profiles aim to inform public sector leaders and others working in these sectors about key corruption risks and drivers by offering a snapshot of their sector’s main vulnerabilities,” Dr Timothy said.

“The profiles will be regularly updated to alert them to emerging risks. These new profiles will be particularly useful to teams responsible for integrity, governance, and risk in the Victorian public service.”

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