Tasmanian MP under investigation by corruption watchdog over alleged conflict of interest – ABC News

Tasmanian MP under investigation by corruption watchdog over alleged conflict of interest
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Tasmania's Integrity Commission is investigating a state member of parliament over allegations they failed to declare and manage a conflict of interest in policy and expenditure decisions.
Their identity has not been publicly released because the investigation is ongoing.
The Integrity Commission can choose to release the identity at the end of the investigation — regardless of a finding of wrongdoing — if it believes it is in the public interest.
The matter — included in the commission's annual report released on Thursday — is described as having "a number of allegations" and mentions the "seniority of the subject officers".
It is named Investigation Loyetea, an area in north-west Tasmania, but there is no suggestion the MP is from the electorate of Braddon.
The matter is one of six "accepted" for investigation by Tasmania's corruption watchdog in the 2021-22 financial year, in addition to three other completed investigations in the same time period.
Another involves allegations that councillors and senior staff at a Tasmanian council engaged in fraud, bullying, unsafe work practices, poor procurement practices, improper use of power and information for personal profit, nepotism and cronyism, and improperly managed conflicts of interest.
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The commission was able to verify some of the facts, and the investigation is continuing.
Another investigation, named Greer, includes allegations that senior public officers improperly refused a Right to Information request, and then improperly involved themselves in a review of the decision. The commission had been unable to get clarity around the decision-making process.
In the 12-month period, two public officers have been identified in investigation reports: former Derwent Valley councillor Paul Belcher who received $5,000 from a property developer and advocated on their behalf, and former work health and safety regulator Mark Cocker who was cleared of claims he was biased over his decision to serve a safety notice on the Bob Brown Foundation.
During 2021-22 financial year, the Integrity Commission obtained a search warrant once, and used its power to enter a premise once.
The laws governing the corruption watchdog are going through another round of reforms, after only six of the 55 recommendations were implemented from a 2016 review.
The body can only investigate public servants and MPs, rather than third parties seeking to influence public decision-making.
It has also never held a public hearing, but the option is open, if a convened Integrity Commission tribunal chooses to do so.
One case in the report was accepted for inquiry by the commission's tribunal – the first time that has ever occurred.
It is a possible precursor to a public hearing.
The investigation accepted by the tribunal deals with allegations a practitioner undertook private work in public hours and did not declare gifts and benefits.
Independent state parliament upper house member Meg Webb has repeatedly questioned the powers of the Integrity Commission, including its decisions not to investigate certain matters in which she believed it would be easy to prove corruption.
She said it was encouraging to see the commission was carrying out investigations of senior public officers.
"Our Integrity Commission seems to be more passive than similar entities in other states, so Tasmanians will be pleased to see a serious investigation taking place," Ms Webb said.
"We have to assume that – looking at the experiences in other states and the things that happen regarding influence and corruption – that this kind of conduct is also occurring here."
Earlier this year, then-premier Peter Gutwein told parliament he had no reason to believe that "systemic corruption" existed in Tasmania, based on his experiences of 20 years in public office.
These comments came following the release of an Australia Institute report which found integrity bodies in other states and territories were conducting far more investigations per year.
Public consultation on reforms to the Integrity Commission Act closed last month.
Set the ABC News website or the app to "Tasmania Top Stories" from either the homepage or the settings menu in the app to continue getting the same national news but with a sprinkle of more relevant state stories.
Here's a taste of the latest stories from Tasmania:
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