ICAC WARNS OF “DEVASTATING” FUNDING ISSUES
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption says it may have to cut about a quarter of its staff to make $4.7 million in savings in 2020-21.
The watchdog warns it would have an “immediate and devastating effect” on its ability to fight corruption.
In a submission to a NSW parliamentary inquiry, the commission last month said it would have to cut up to 31 of 120 positions to make the necessary savings next financial year without further funding.
This would reduce the corruption watchdog’s staffing to the lowest level in its 30-year history.
“Such reductions will have an immediate and devastating effect on the commission’s frontline services and, therefore, its ability to fight corruption,” the submission said.
Full-time equivalent ICAC positions would then have to be reduced each financial year up to 2025-26 to meet ongoing savings in the forward estimates.
The commission said its $27.399 million in 2019-20 appropriation and grant funding was “barely sufficient”, and it would receive $3.258 million less under the forward estimates without further funding in 2020-21.
Increased expenditure next financial year, including rises from inflation, rent and mandated salary increases, meant ICAC would need $4.7 million to maintain its current level of operations.
Public Service Association general secretary Stewart Little said any loss of ICAC staff would be “great news for corruption”.
“If you sack a quarter of your employees that’s going to cripple your effectiveness. That shouldn’t shock anyone with a shred of common sense,” Mr Little said in a statement on Monday.
ICAC has proposed that its appropriation funding be set at a core level, reflecting its operational needs and not subject to government-imposed efficiency dividends or cost-saving measures.
The commission has also suggested a new funding model which includes a fixed amount for core funding needs and supplementary funding for unexpected or unforeseeable expenses.
“The current budget process usually requires new funding business case proposals for the following financial year to be made in February,” the submission said.
“It is not possible to predict more than 12 months in advance what allegations of serious corrupt conduct and systemic corrupt conduct will require investigation over the coming financial year.”
Australian Associated Press
9 December 2019