The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Mr Bruce Lander QC, has announced his intention to commence an evaluation of the practices, policies and procedures of SafeWork SA. The ICAC is tasked by section 7(1)(d) of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012 with undertaking such evaluations. These evaluations are separate to investigations by the ICAC into alleged corruption, misconduct or maladministration in public administration and are of a broader scope.
The ICAC has written to the chief executive of the Attorney-General's Department as the department within which SafeWork SA is currently housed and has advised his intention to evaluate the practices, policies and procedures of the Attorney-General's Department insofar as they relate to the operations of the regulatory arm of SafeWork SA. Mr Lander has indicated his decision to conduct such an evaluation has been influenced by, amongst other things:
the importance of the regulatory functions of SafeWork SA, and in ensuring the integrity of the conduct of those functions; and
the number of complaints and reports about the regulatory arm of SafeWork SA that his office has received since opening in 2013.
The evaluation is separate to the investigation being undertaken by ICAC in relation to the matters surrounding the recent withdrawal of a prosecution arising from a fatal accident at the Royal Adelaide Show in September 2014.
The commissioner is currently able, under the ICAC Act, to conduct the evaluation by way of a public inquiry. The commissioner has indicated his intention to do so in order to maximise public participation and confidence in the process and outcome of the evaluation. The commissioner has further indicated, however, that he will consider hearing evidence or submissions in private, where appropriate. I expect the commissioner will have more to say about his proposed approach in due course. While it is difficult to estimate at this point how long the evaluation is likely to take, it might be expected to be a number of months.
Both the chief executive of the Attorney-General's Department and the executive director of SafeWork SA have welcomed the proposed evaluation and its conduct by way of public inquiry as a way of allowing the agency's strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement to be debated openly. I also welcome this announcement and await the commissioner's report. Everyone—everyone—has the right to attend a workplace and to be safe, and the agency charged with the responsibility to regulate the same must operate at the highest standard.