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What is corrupt conduct?

Corrupt conduct, as defined in the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 ("the ICAC Act"), is deliberate or intentional wrongdoing, not negligence or a mistake. It has to involve or affect a NSW public official or public sector organisation.

While it can take many forms, corrupt conduct occurs when:

  • a public official improperly uses, or tries to improperly use, the knowledge, power or resources of their position for personal gain or the advantage of others
  • a public official dishonestly exercises his or her official functions, or improperly exercises his or her official functions in a partial manner, breaches public trust or misuses information or material acquired during the course of his or her official functions
  • a member of the public influences, or tries to influence, a public official to use his or her position in a way that affects the probity of the public official's exercise of functions
  • a member of the public engages in conduct that could involve one of the matters set out in section 8(2A) of the ICAC Act where such conduct impairs, or could impair, public confidence in public administration.

The NSW community expects public officials to perform their duties with honesty and in the best interests of the public. Corrupt conduct by a public official involves a breach of public trust that can lead to inequity, wasted resources or public money and reputational damage.

Some examples of corrupt conduct are:

  • a local councillor voting in favour of a development in which the councillor has an undisclosed financial interest
  • a member of the public bribing an official to pass a driver's licence test
  • a former public official selling confidential information gained while working in an official capacity.

For the ICAC to be able to pursue a matter (that is, for the matter to be within ICAC jurisdiction), the corruption must involve or affect a NSW public official or public authority.

If the ICAC is to consider investigating the matter, the conduct must also meet the conditions set out in section 9 of the ICAC Act. These conditions are that the conduct could constitute or involve:

  • a criminal offence, or
  • a disciplinary offence, or 
  • constitute reasonable grounds for dismissing or otherwise terminating the services of a public official, or
  • in the case of a member of the NSW Parliament or local government councillor, a substantial breach of an applicable code of conduct.

Types of public sector conduct other than those defined in the ICAC Act, such as instances of poor administration or a personal grievance, are best referred to another agency such as the NSW Ombudsman or the Anti-Discrimination Board. A matter is also outside the ICAC's jurisdiction if it relates to complaints against private sector organisations, non-public officials or Federal Government bodies in a way which has no connection to the NSW public sector.

The full definition of corruption which applies to the ICAC is detailed in sections 7, 8 and 9 of the ICAC Act.

View the ICAC's video on What is corruption? for further information.