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Silk resigns as ICAC commissioner over ‘damage’ to scheme

The commissioner of the South Australian Independent Commission Against Corruption resigned over frustrations that her public interest concerns were constantly falling on deaf ears.

user iconNaomi Neilson 10 July 2024 Corporate Counsel
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Ann Vanstone KC, who headed up South Australia’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for the last four years, announced her resignation on Tuesday (9 July) afternoon.

While there were some personal issues at play, Vanstone said it was mostly for professional reasons that she would be stepping down three years before her term was due to expire.

“The 2021 amendments to the legislation governing public integrity in South Australia damaged the scheme, under the guise of making it more ‘effective and efficient’,” Vanstone said in a statement.

 
 

“I have been saying this since before the amendments passed and have had reason to continue to say it.”

Vanstone said the amendments to the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 2012 (SA) assisted ICAC in streamlining its investigations but came at the cost of public interest.

The definition of corruption was narrowed, the commission was isolated from intelligence sources constituted by complaints and reports, and was “divorced” from the prosecution process so that ICAC investigators were unable to assist a prosecution.

“Absurdly, we are not even allowed to speak to the prosecutor, meaning they are denied access to the expertise and knowledge of commission investigators who best know the matter,” Vanstone said.

Vanstone said she has pointed out these issues to the government and the parliamentary committee “multiple times” and has gone so far as to propose “modest reform” and a review of the amendments.

“It is not that the legislation is wholly unworkable, but it does need to be as robust and effective as possible,” she said.

“My words have fallen on deaf ears.

“I hope the next commissioner will succeed where I have failed.”

Despite her frustrations, Vanstone said other than to help her staff, she stayed for as long as she did out of a “naïve” belief that her concerns could one day be addressed.

“That has not happened, and I have no confidence that it would, even if I stayed until the end of my term.

“Most importantly, I have stayed for the staff, to help them retain faith that the work they do is important and valuable, notwithstanding the attacks on the commission,” Vanstone said.

“But I have run out of steam.”

Vanstone will finish up at ICAC on 6 September.