Commission against corruption welcomed

The Local Government Association of South Australia has welcomed the State Government’s announcement that it would introduce legislation to create an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

LGA President, Mayor Kym McHugh said councils will welcome changes as indicated by the Premier but the LGA will want to analyse the detail and talk to Councils about the implications of the new Bill.

“Neither I, nor the LGA, or councils have any issues with the need for the thorough investigation of alleged fraud and corruption by individuals in local or state government and for appropriate penalties to be applied,” Mayor McHugh said.

“I agree with Premier Weatherill that our communities expect governments at all levels to be open and accountable and if we adhere to these basic principles we have nothing to fear from an ICAC.

“We expect to continue to have significant consultation with the Government on the changes to the Local Government Act to reflect the requirements of the new legislation,” he said.

“We will also work with the Government on the development of a uniform code of conduct for Local Government.”

Mayor McHugh said the introduction of a uniform code and an investigatory role for the Ombudsman would also signify to council members that behavioural issues, while a far cry from issues to be dealt with by the ICAC, were disruptive and inappropriate.

“We sought, from the Government, a structure to protect the presumption of innocence of people against unfair allegations and we are reassured by the Premier’s announcement that the ICAC Commissioner would have to consider the effect on a person’s reputation and the capacity of a public statement to unfairly damage a person’s reputation.

“We have to remember that our council members are voluntary servants of their communities and those who sit on Development Assessment Panels must be protected from unfounded allegations.”

Mayor McHugh said the formation of a new Parliamentary Joint Committee added another welcome level of scrutiny to the new system, as did the annual appointment of an independent reviewer to scrutinise the ICAC’s exercise of its powers.

“We look forward to hearing the views of the Opposition and minor parties as this legislation proceeds through both Houses of Parliament,” he said.