The Crime and Misconduct Commission today released its report into an investigation of former ministerial adviser Simon Tutt which has been a catalyst for a series of reforms in the Queensland government.
The CMC investigation examined Mr Tutt’s role in the awarding of a $4.2 million grant to the Queensland Rugby Union in 2008 at a time when he was an adviser to the then Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Sport, the Honourable Judy Spence.
CMC Assistant Commissioner, Misconduct, Warren Strange says following the investigation, Queensland now has comprehensive provisions in place to prevent inappropriate interactions between ministerial staff and public servants.
‘These interactions are now governed by and outlined in the Ministerial and Other Office Holder Staff Act 2010 and employment contracts. The Ministerial Staff Code of Conduct is also currently being revised.’
‘However, the CMC has recommended further protocols be developed to ensure that it is clear to ministerial staffers and public servants that there is a right and appropriate way of doing business.’
‘While no criminal or disciplinary action will be taken as a result of the investigation, the inquiry highlighted broader public policy issues concerning the role of ministerial advisers and the relationship between ministerial staff and public servants,’ Mr Strange said.
‘The CMC investigation revealed that senior and very experienced public servants had been unduly influenced by a ministerial adviser. As a result, the advice the department ultimately delivered to the minister was neither impartial nor conformed to existing policy and guidelines.’
‘While the minister was empowered to grant the money regardless of her department’s advice, the actions of these senior public servants are concerning,’ Mr Strange said.
‘The investigation also considered more general concerns about the way the then Department of Local Government, Sport and Recreation administered and awarded grants under its Major Facilities Program.’
‘The CMC was of the view that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the department’s assessment and approval process of grants. However, there were problems in how the process was undertaken in the grants examined by the CMC as the department’s advice reflected the Minister’s views, rather than its own independent assessment.”
‘This lack of transparency in the decision making process exposed the minister and the public servants to the perception that the awarding of public funds was politically motivated.’
‘Transparency is crucial to the public’s trust in the integrity of the systems of government.’
‘Where a department’s processes or advice are not followed or are overridden, the public must be informed about the fact that this has happened, why and an explanation of why this was considered in the public interest.’
‘The CMC has recommended that government departments and agencies introduce a system where they document their decision-making process when a final decision by government overrides agency advice.’
‘Our recommendations build on reforms currently being implemented by government and not only attempt to prevent misconduct, but also address underlying relationships and working cultures which in the past may have allowed misconduct to occur,’ Mr Strange said.