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Riverina community leaders play critical role in corruption fight, says the ICAC

Tuesday 13 May 2008

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has told a gathering of Riverina community leaders this morning that they play a critical role in combating corruption in their local community.

The ICAC's Deputy Director of Corruption Prevention, Education and Research, Lynn Atkinson, was addressing approximately 60 people at a breakfast at Wagga Wagga, organised by the Commission as part of its Outreach visit to the Riverina this week.

"Community leaders are important to the Commission because we hope that if you or others identify, or even suspect, corrupt conduct in the public sector that you will report it to the ICAC," Ms Atkinson said.

"The cooperation of community leaders and other responsible members of the community helps the ICAC in the fight against corruption. In the last financial year we received and assessed more than 2,000 complaints and reports of suspected corrupt conduct from the general public, CEOs and public officials across NSW."

Ms Atkinson also spoke about the various costs that public sector corruption can force on the community, and the importance of corruption prevention.

"As anyone who has followed one of our public inquiries will appreciate, corrupted public services cost us, the public, dearly," she said.‚  "There are financial costs, and these can be substantial if corruption goes unchecked; but corruption also erodes public confidence in the agency which has failed to manage its corruption risks.‚ And of course there can be an impact on the quality and standard of services when these fall victim to corrupt practices.

"There is too much at stake for state agencies not to take the message of corruption prevention very seriously," Ms Atkinson warned.

The ICAC conducts two outreach visits a year to bring anti-corruption initiatives and training to regions across NSW.

The Commission is holding workshops, briefings and training sessions for local agencies including the Department of Education, the Greater Southern Area Health Service, Department of Lands, NSW Police Force, Department of Juvenile Justice, TAFE NSW, the Roads and Traffic Authority, Maritime NSW, and the WorkCover Authority of NSW. ‚  Local councils participating will include Wagga Wagga and Albury cities, and the shire councils of Junee, Leeton, Temora, Greater Hume, Narrandera, Lockhart and Conargo.

The sessions will include information on how to recognise and report corrupt conduct and identifying and managing corruption risks in public sector organisations.

The visit will also include the NSW Deputy Ombudsman Chris Wheeler, who will speak about protected disclosures, and addressed this morning's breakfast about the role of the Ombudsman.

The ICAC's Outreach Program has proved highly successful since its inception in 2001. In addition to the Riverina, the program has included previous visits to the North Coast, Mudgee, the Illawarra, the Hunter, the Far West, New England, the Central West and the Central Coast.