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ICAC Commissioner’s term concludes

Friday 13 November 2009

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Commissioner, the Hon Jerrold Cripps QC, completes his five-year term today (13 November), bringing to a close an extremely active period for the Commission that has included uncovering approximately $19 million in inappropriate RailCorp contracts, and systemic corruption in the planning processes at Wollongong City Council.

During Commissioner Cripps' term, the Commission has conducted 33 public inquiries, made corrupt conduct findings against 197 people, conducted 55 formal investigations and made 369 corruption prevention recommendations.

"The role of the ICAC has not diminished over the past 20 years, and in my time I believe that its relevance has increased," Commissioner Cripps said.

"The Commission has worked steadfastly to fight corruption in NSW, and I have every confidence that it will continue to do so. However, it is important to remember that the Commission needs to be able to maintain its independence to continue to function to its full capacity, and to invoke the extraordinary powers it has without fear of prejudice drawn from agenda-driven external commentators.

"Those making comments about how the Commission should be using its powers without considering, or ignoring, the reality of the situation do not account for the fact that the Commission must be very stringent about how it does invoke its powers. The Commission is extremely conscious of the need to balance the rights of people with its role to expose and strive to eliminate corruption.

"While the ICAC has continued to uncover and work to minimise corruption, it is important for agencies, governments and the Parliament to respond to, and address, corrupt conduct themselves.

"In 2007, the Commission made a recommendation that persons submitting development applications or rezoning proposals to the Minister for Planning should declare any political donations they have made to the minister or to his or her party. I note that the Government enacted laws last year requiring the disclosure of political donations of $1,000 or more, and gifts, when lodging relevant planning applications or submissions," Commissioner Cripps said.

"Over the past five years, the Commission has also made many major corruption prevention recommendations. These have included that the NSW Planning Minister consider expanding the classes of development for which Joint Regional Planning Panels will be the consent authority to include certain categories of development relying on SEPP 1 objections, which came out of the Commission's investigation last year into corruption at Wollongong City Council.

"The Commission also made 40 corruption prevention recommendations as part of its Operation Monto investigation involving RailCorp, and 14 to help the NSW Fire Brigades improve its processes, in an area that has emerged as one of the most risk-riddled – procurement. Public and private sector partnerships must be managed with the utmost propriety to ensure that the people of NSW reap the benefits of these arrangements, rather than seeing their tax dollars falling into a void of corruption that benefits a crooked minority," Commissioner Cripps said.

The Commissioner acknowledged the contribution of the ICAC's staff, thanking those with whom he has worked over the past five years for "their professionalism and dedication to the Commission".

Commissioner Cripps will take up new roles as Chair of the NSW Sentencing Council, Chair of Transparency International Australia, and will serve as a member of the ACT's judicial commission into a complaint against the Territory's Chief Magistrate. The new ICAC Commissioner, the Hon David Ipp AO QC, will commence his term on Monday, 16 November 2009.