Victoria’s integrity Agencies have banded together to call for greater budgetary independence to ensure Governments cannot be accused of interfering with the impartiality of the Agencies whose job it is to hold them to account.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office and the Victorian Ombudsman presented their case for greater independence in a joint paper, Budget independence for Victoria’s Independent Officers of Parliament.
“The current process of having the Government of the day rather than the Parliament decide the funding of Victoria’s Integrity Agencies has been a hot topic for many years; in the last year it has grown even hotter,” the Integrity Agencies said in a joint statement.
“[The] joint paper sets out a case to further strengthen the perceived and actual independence of these three officers of Parliament,” they said.
“The key recommendation is that consideration of their funding be the responsibility of a new independent statutory commission/tribunal, similar to the current Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal.”
The Agencies said all evidence, reasoning and recommendations to the Treasurer would be tabled in Parliament to promote full transparency.
They said while there were many dimensions to independence, the Paper only dealt with the issue of how the respective Offices were funded.
“This matter has recently become an ‘issue de jour’ in the context of a proposed federal integrity commission, and in both New South Wales and, most recently, in Queensland,” the Agencies said.
“The three Integrity Agencies judge it timely therefore to add to this growing national debate, so that Victoria stays aligned with contemporary thinking and approaches.
“It is also timely to consider the issue in light of the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations made in Operation Watts by IBAC and the Ombudsman to improve Parliamentary integrity.”
The Integrity Agency heads said the Paper should not be taken as an implied or express criticism of their current funding levels.
They said the goal was to establish a transparent and robust process which was apolitical, “and in doing so, to provide the Parliament and the community with assurance that their respective offices have the resources they need to do their jobs well”.
“This is an opportune time to seek a commitment from all parties to a reform that must be profoundly in the public interest,” the Agencies said.
The joint 20-page Paper can be accessed at this PS News link.