The NSW Premier’s influence over funding for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is a “threat” to the independence of the body, a report has found.
The state’s Auditor-General handed down her review of the funding model for the ICAC and three other agencies on Tuesday morning, a little over a week after Gladys Berejiklian took the witness stand before the corruption watchdog.
The audit, which was commissioned by the Premier a year ago, found issues with the NSW Treasury and the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) having control over funding the ICAC, the Electoral Commission, the Ombudsman and the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.
“Consistent with the Audit Office of NSW’s role in auditing NSW Government departments and agencies, the recommendations are directed to NSW Treasury and the Department of Premier and Cabinet,” Auditor-General Margaret Crawford wrote in the audit.
“However, the report recognises that the current role of these entities in the funding arrangements for the integrity agencies poses a threat to their independence.”
The report notes the DPC and NSW Treasury have interpreted appropriation legislation to mean the Premier is able to restrict funding.
Additionally, it notes that if one of the four agencies requires additional money, it has to ask the DPC: “This creates a potential threat to their independence … In addition, it is possible that DPC could be the subject of an investigation conducted by an integrity agency.”
On the other hand, the report notes, the DPC secretary has previously told parliament “he did not scrutinise requests from ICAC in any detail because of concerns that this could be perceived as inappropriate”.
Among the audit’s recommendations is that the government overhauls the funding model so that the agencies are assured independence while maintaining their accountability.
The offices of the Premier and Treasurer have been contacted for comment.