Wednesday, 10 July 2024

Tough on crime. Rooting out corruption. These promises have been made by governments and oppositions alike for centuries. 

The current Labor government, though, has made active moves to help fight Australian corruption. The establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) as an anti-corruption watchdog on 1 July 2023, and the recent passing of new anti-bribery legislation are two examples. Although they were on the cards for some time, they now have been completed.

Another important step in this journey was taken on 1 July 2024 when updates to the Commonwealth Fraud and Corruption Control Framework (CFCCF) took effect. This is important because it affects all Commonwealth entities in how they manage the risks of fraud and corruption.

In place since 2017, the previous Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework covered fraud, but not corruption. Now entities will need to adjust their approach, and add new controls, due diligence checks, and other processes to manage and monitor their corruption risks.

There’s a lot to consider.  The framework is structured in three layers. First, an overarching Rule (the Rule) that Commonwealth entities must take all reasonable measures to prevent, detect and respond to fraud and corruption. The Rule is supported by a Policy, which sets out obligations for Commonwealth entities to achieve the Rule. The Policy is itself supported by Guidance, which provides further detail to assist in achieving the Policy’s obligations. 

There are other updates to the CFCCF as well: the updated Policy formally defines 38 minimum requirements, including new obligations to adopt robust governance protocols and to implement programs to assess internal control effectiveness. As a specific example, the Policy will require Commonwealth entities to formally appoint officials with responsibility for fraud and corruption control. While these updates will likely require action, inclusion of corruption in the CFCCF should be front and centre. 

For guidance on corruption control, the devil is in the detail, with minimal actual guidance in the CFCCF on how to address fighting corruption. The CFCCF’s primary guidance on anti-corruption control revolves around third party due diligence, such as fit and proper background checks. However, more depth is required on other corruption risks like conflicts of interest and hospitality.