This charge is the first in an investigation initiated by the newly-launched National Anti-Corruption Commission

A former employee of the Western Sydney Airport (WSA) has been charged with allegedly soliciting a bribe of $200k during the procurement process for a contract to provide services at the airport. The contract was worth an estimated $5 million. 

The charge was made by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), following a joint investigation with the Australian Federal Police. The long awaited NACC was founded this past July with the goal of preventing, detecting and investigating corrupt conduct in the Commonwealth. It is the first time an independent anti corruption body has overseen the entire Commonwealth public sector.

NACC commissioner, the Hon Paul Brereton publicised this first charge to highlight the risk of corruption in high value and complex procurements in the Commonwealth. This charge comes on the heels of convictions and sentencing in three other matters that were inherited by the Commission from the former Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. 

Taking corruption seriously

The NACC introduces new standards in anti corruption. The NACC commissioner, Brereton, acts independently of the government and is responsible for enforcing the standards imposed by the National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022. It will be able to investigate serious or systemic instances of corrupt conduct involving Australian Government public officials.

The finding that a person engaged in corrupt conduct is not necessarily criminal but it could still have reputational and employment consequences. If the NACC does find evidence of a crime, it can share this evidence with the police or prosecuting authorities, and the person could face criminal charges. Significantly, the Commissioner can make findings about the conduct of government agencies, private sector entities or individuals, if they are involved in corrupt conduct that involves government officials.

The NACC will be able to hold public or private hearings and it will be able to compel the production of documents and things – even those protected by legal professional privilege. It will be able to apply for search warrants, telephone interception warrants, and to confiscate passports.

It is telling that within the first months of the NACC’s launch, hundreds of complaints were filed. In the first month alone, there were 541 complaints. In remarks released by the commission, NACC commissioner Brereton is quoted that the public had “clearly expressed a desire for an anti-corruption commission agency. The people of the Commonwealth are no longer prepared to tolerate practices which might once have been the subject of, if not acceptance, at least acquiescence.”