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Public hearings into allegations of serious corrupt conduct involving Victorian public officers, including Members of Parliament, will commence on 11 October.

The hearings are part of Operation Watts, a coordinated investigation between IBAC and the Victorian Ombudsman, which is looking into a range of matters including allegations of 'branch stacking' which aired in media reports in 2020.

The public hearings will examine allegations that Victorian public officers engaged in corrupt conduct by directing taxpayer-funded ministerial and electorate office staff to perform party‐political work during times when those staff were being paid to perform ministerial or electorate work.

They will also examine allegations that public money intended to fund community associations was misused for party‐political work or other improper purposes.

IBAC's Commissioner The Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC said the Victorian community rightly expects public funds to be used appropriately and for all public officers to adhere to Parliamentary standards and processes.

"As part of our focus on preventing corruption, the public hearings will also consider whether the current systems and controls are sufficient to protect the integrity of the expenditure of public funds for ministerial and electorate office staff and the making of community grants, and examine potential systemic issues, including opportunities to strengthen associated governance, transparency and accountability arrangements," Commissioner Redlich said.

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the two integrity agencies had, for the first time in their history, combined both resources and expertise in a comprehensive investigation to shed light on the allegations.

"This is a crucial investigation to allow for public confidence in how taxpayers’ money was being used by those in power," Ms Glass said.

The hearings start on Monday 11 October and will be publicly streamed. Due to current Victorian COVID-19 health directions, the hearings cannot be attended in person by members of the public but can be freely accessed via video stream on the IBAC website.

The hearings will be presided over by Commissioner Redlich. Counsel Assisting is Chris Carr SC of the Victorian Bar.

For further details, including a summary of the scope and purpose of the hearings, visit the Operation Watts page on IBAC's website.

Anyone with credible information relevant to the investigation is encouraged to report it at www.ibac.vic.gov.au/report or phone 1300 735 135.

Background

The coordinated investigation is being conducted pursuant to section 72 of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Act 2011 (IBAC Act) which enables IBAC to consult, coordinate and cooperate with the Victorian Ombudsman. The coordinated investigation is conducted by IBAC as an exercise of IBAC's duties, functions and powers.

Among IBAC's powers is the ability to conduct examinations in public ('public hearings') for the purposes of the investigation pursuant to sections 115 and 117 of the IBAC Act.


Media contact: media@ibac.vic.gov.au or 0427 480 840

Media note: Due to public health restrictions, media will not be able to attend the hearings at this stage. The hearings will be publicly streamed (with a slight delay) via the IBAC website.

To receive exhibits during the Operation Watts public hearings, and permission to rebroadcast parts of the video stream, media representatives must sign and return a request form and declaration relating to the use and publication/broadcast of that material.

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ENDS

You can always trust Adem Somyurek to look after number one!

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