Submissions received into the parliamentary inquiry into funding for independent oversight bodies have all highlighted the secret and unfair funding allocation process. Each agency is facing crippling budget cuts and staff losses.
Submissions have been received from ICAC, LECC, the NSW Electoral Commission, the NSW Ombudsman.
The submissions have a common theme that the current system where core funding is set by those who are subject to oversight has meant that allocations often do not meet operational requirements and are too often subject to Government-imposed efficiency dividends or other cost-saving measures.
Greens MP and Chair of the Public Accountability Committee David Shoebridge said:
“It is critical that these independent watchdogs are not strangled by the Government they are supposed to oversight.
“Having legal independence is one thing but it means very little if the Government can prevent investigation by cutting off the money.
“This inquiry was set up in response to growing concerns that independent oversight is at risk by a budget process controlled by the very people who are being scrutinized.
“Submissions received to date show a high level of concern among these institutions that they will soon not have the resources to do the jobs they are by law required to do.
“The ICAC projected budget will require forced redundancies of one quarter of all staff which will inevitably compromise the integrity and independence of the body.
“The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission is currently only able to investigate around 2% of complaints received.
“The budget cuts imposed on the LECC means that while complaints increased 17% in 2018-19 in 2020-21 the agency will have almost $5 million less to deal with them.
“The NSW Electoral Commission advises that only 1 of the 14 applications they made for important projects was approved, and it delivered more funding to political participants.
“We will be seriously considering the matters raised and the impact they have on integrity, independence and accountability of these important bodies,” said Mr Shoebridge.