CMC boost for local government

INTEGRITY issues among new councillors and the pressures within resource-rich areas have come under the watchful eye of the state's crime and corruption watchdog.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has restructured its work program to give greater recognition to the importance of local government sector complaints.

In its annual report, tabled in parliament, the CMC notes 59% of mayors and 51% of councillors were newly elected to their roles.

"All newcomers will undoubtedly bring new perspectives to integrity issues while learning their roles," the report said. "Some in resource-rich areas may also be confronting risks and pressures associated with rapid economic development.

"This significantly changed environment will require vigilance and targeted response from the CMC."

The organisation noted it would benefit from machinery changes within the new government, including decentralised structures, when it came to regional Queensland.

"Meeting this challenge effectively will require the CMC to develop new and innovative ways to engage effectively with regionally based decision makers," the report said.

New CMC chief Ross Martin noted in the report that greater use of web technologies was one means to achieve that goal.

"All areas of the organisation, particularly those in frontline service delivery, are grappling with how a Brisbane-based organisation can work most effectively across Queensland's regions," he said.

The report comes 10 years after the CMC was created and 25 years since the Fitzgerald Inquiry commenced in 1987.

Mr Martin said the CMC had disrupted two high-threat drug networks, enabled Queensland's first arrests under Commonwealth legislation targeting networked criminal paedophilia and restrained $20m worth of property under its proceeds of crime function in 2011-12.

He said the crime area helped police progress 48 separate major crime operations while the organisation's misconduct arm assessed more than 5000 complaints, a record.

Mr Martin said the CMC also evaluated the integrity systems of seven departments, investigated matters arising in some of Queensland's most important public institutions, such as Queensland Health and the University of Queensland, and was asked to examine a significant matter arising from the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry.

"The organisation also demonstrated its capacity to seamlessly tackle multi-faceted issues," he said. "Two very different examples this year were the alleged fraud of $16m from Queensland Health and our examination of internet-enabled crime.

"In the case of Queensland Health, our proceeds of crime team acted immediately, with our colleagues at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, to restrain $12 million worth of assets, while our misconduct area launched an investigation into the overall circumstances of the matter in the interests of transparency and prevention of future misconduct.

"The issues raised will be of significance across the public sector."

The CMC report revealed an increase in public sector misconduct complaints to 5303, with almost 13,000 allegations made in the past year.

That represented a 42% increase since 2007-08. About 42% related to public sector agencies within Queensland, up 9%.

"This upward trend is considered partly attributable to public sector employees' increasing awareness of the need to report official misconduct," the report said.

CMC achievements 2011-12

  • Restrained $12.039 of the $16.6 million fake Tahitian prince Hohepa Morehu-Barlow allegedly defrauded from Queensland Health.
  • Three Queensland prosecutions under Commonwealth legislation targeting networked criminal paedophilia including a convicted child sex offender and a person heavily involved in youth groups in Brisbane.
  • All witnesses under the CMC's witness protection program were kept safe and able to give their evidence in court.
  • Disrupted two high-threat criminal networks involved in manufacturing and distributing drugs in South-East Queensland

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