Icac needs funding overhaul to ensure it is not subject to government's whims: inquiry

Christopher Knaus
Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Funding for the New South Wales anti-corruption commission should be overhauled to ensure it is independent, properly resourced, and not subject to the whims of governments, a Liberal- and National-dominated committee has recommended.

The recommendations follow stark warnings last month from the independent commission against corruption’s chief commissioner, Peter Hall, who said a looming funding shortfall of $4m would have a “immediate and serious” effect on its ability to fight corruption.

Hall proposed a special funding model for Icac, which guaranteed its independence and transparency and prevented it being left at the mercy of the government of the day.

“Something must be done. It must be done quickly,” Hall said in evidence to NSW parliament’s committee on Icac.

Related: Icac head says funding cuts will have 'immediate and serious' effect

“If the commission’s funding under the persuasion or influence of the executive of government, or for any other reason, is reduced or constrained, that of course would inflict considerable damage to the commission’s ability to function.”

On Wednesday the Icac committee released its report and agreed with Hall’s proposal.

The committee – which has six Liberal and National MPs, three Labor, one Green and one One Nation – recommended the government “investigates a new independent funding model for the Icac in the current budget cycle”.

“Any model chosen should ensure that the Icac is sufficiently funded to continue its core work, provisions for CPI and wage rises, and factors in the fluctuating nature of operational costs,” it said.

It also recommended that government “consider a funding process for the Icac which is separate from the process that applies to other government or independent agencies”.

The recommendations for an independent funding model were welcomed by the Greens committee member, Jamie Parker.

But he said it appeared to be at odds with the government’s recent decision to refer Icac funding to the auditor-general.

“The Icac doesn’t need auditing, it needs funding,” he said. “The chief commissioner has told the premier very clearly that in order for the Icac to do its job properly, their whole funding model needs to change.

“Icac’s budget needs to increase and should be controlled completely independent of the government of the day.”