Wednesday, 2 August 2023


After decades of advocacy, debate, public pressure, and trepidation in the halls of Parliament, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (‘NACC’) is in full swing.

This landmark reform at the Commonwealth level fulfils election promises to establish a national ‘integrity commission’, but poses considerable risks for underprepared federal government entities, individuals, and organisations doing work for the government.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022 (Cth) is clear on its descriptions of corrupt conduct as breaches of public trust, abuse of official office, misuse of information, dishonesty, and bias. But it’s less clear on the scope of serious and systemic corruption and the practicalities of enforcement. So, interpretation is needed to make sure the new commission achieves its goal of political integrity, rather than creating potential scapegoats.

In its fight against corruption, the NACC will have sweeping powers, much like a Royal Commission. It will be able to enter and search premises without a warrant, conduct covert investigations, compel people under investigation to answer questions and acquire information compulsorily.

So, what do you need to know and do about this?

There’s been much focus on federal politicians coming under the remit of the NACC. But the practicalities of integrity enforcement present real problems for federal government entities and their staff. The description of ‘corrupt conduct’ is very broad and the example of ‘breach of public trust’ is unclear.

It may be that the need for clarification will be highlighted through the application of the NACC’s powers. NACC private hearings may be the norm to minimise the collateral damage similar to that seen in NSW where, with modern media exposure, damage was done by accusations alone.

Organisations that service the Commonwealth Government should review their risk management policies, contractual clauses, and internal education using the revised AS8001 Fraud and Corruption control Standard as a guide. They should take steps to revisit internal risk management policies, amend anti-bribery and corruption clauses within third-party contracts, and incorporate anti-corruption training, investigation protocols, and whistleblower mechanisms. Employees on Commonwealth work (including third-party contractors) will be deemed public officials and their actions will also fall under the scope of the NACC.

The NACC will be out to put its stamp on Commonwealth corruption, and it would be unwise to underestimate the scope, reach, and measure of the NACC.

With such broad scope, widespread powers, and as yet ill-defined enforcement protocols, the best defence is to take note of what is absolutely clear – who and what is covered and what is expected.

It’s about assessing risk and then managing it by thoroughly investigating internal matters that could lead to corrupt conduct.

Otherwise, the alternative may be a NACC investigation with severe legal consequences, tarnished reputations, and the erosion of public trust.

Click below to download a more detailed version of this article, including requirements and impacts of the NACC.

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