ICAC heads to the Hunter as rural and regional outreach program returns
Wednesday 22 November 2023
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will visit the Hunter and Central Coast regions next week when it resumes its rural and regional outreach program to bring anti-corruption initiatives and training to centres across the state.
The visit, to be based in Newcastle and the Central Coast, marks the first time the program has been conducted since it was put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will also be the first outreach visit for the Commission’s current Chief Commissioner, the Hon John Hatzistergos AM, who said he is very keen to see this important initiative resume.
“The Rural and Regional Outreach program is an important way for the Commission to connect with public officials and communities outside the metropolitan area, in a way that is more personable than remotely tuning in to workshops and talks,” Chief Commissioner Hatzistergos said.
“While we are, of course, now in an age when having that remote connectivity is very important and a way of life, I believe that the experience of sharing information in person is invaluable. The Commission will conduct workshops as part of this visit to help state and local government agencies learn the latest ways to prevent corrupt conduct. We will also be conducting activities to help raise awareness in the broader community about corruption risks and the roles and functions of the ICAC, and as part of that I am looking forward to hosting my first Community Leaders Forum in Newcastle next Tuesday morning.”
The community leaders’ forum on 28 November will feature a panel discussion with Chief Commissioner Hatzistergos, NSW Ombudsman Paul Miller PSM and Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) Chief Commissioner Peter Johnson SC. The agency leaders will discuss the roles of their organisations, and how the community can contribute to helping oversight agencies fulfil their functions.
Workshops scheduled for this visit include corruption prevention for managers, which focuses on developing an understanding of the nature of corruption, how and why it occurs, and what managers can do to prevent it; fact-finder, which is an introductory workshop for those who may be required to conduct an internal fact-finding investigation into a complaint or allegations of staff wrongdoing, including misconduct or corruption; corruption prevention in procurement and contract management, which aims to assist managers and staff responsible for procurement to identify where systems weaknesses and corruption opportunities may lie; corruption prevention and grant administration; and corruption prevention for Local Aboriginal Land Councils.
The NSW Ombudsman is responsible for promoting public awareness and understanding of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2022 (“the PID Act”) which came into effect last month. The Ombudsman’s Office will conduct workshops that will provide an outline of the new PID Act, focusing on the importance of a “speak up” culture as well as the key elements of the new public interest disclosure framework in NSW.
The Ombudsman’s office will also hold workshops on managing unreasonable conduct by a complainant, fundamentals of complains handling and administrative law in the public sector.
Approximately 70 people will attend the community leaders’ forum, including elected representatives and senior staff from local and state government agencies and community interest groups.
The Outreach program will run for two weeks, with workshops and visits to be held or undertaken in locations including Newcastle, Raymond Terrace, Swansea, Williamtown, Speers Point, Muswellbrook, Maitland, Scone, Singleton, Gosford and Wyong. In the lead-up to the program next week, school visits were undertaken last month in Newcastle, Hamilton, Erina, Erina Heights and Fletcher.
The ICAC rural and regional outreach program has proved highly successful since its inception in 2001. Previous visits have included to the Illawarra, western NSW, the south-east, the central west, the north coast, the northern inland, the south coast, the far west, Riverina Murray and the Blue Mountains. The Commission’s rural and regional outreach program was scheduled to visit the Hunter and Central Coast in 2020, but it was put on hold due to the pandemic. The last visit to the region was to the Central Coast in 2011, and Newcastle in 2008.