“This has been going on since pink batts at least – probably long before that.
“I just read in this morning’s paper of an account of a person who’d applied for the NDIS [National Disability Insurance Scheme] to discover that an item that retailed for $50 has been provided by the NDIS provider at a cost of $300.”
In the pink batts scheme, inexperienced installers were used to roll out a $2.8 billion home insulation program which was a stimulus measure after the global financial crisis. The NDIS is the subject of a major review amid concerns over rorting.
Mr Brereton said these were areas “in which government can be treated as a milch cow”.
“Resources that are intended for the beneficiaries of the scheme are effectively diverted for the benefits of the contract service provider.
“Given the extent to which government has, in recent decades, engaged consultants in place of public servants – and has outsourced the provision of government services to contracted service providers – they are now very, very large areas, and they are areas that are going to be of great interest or are of great interest for my commission.”
The NACC’s last update said it had been involved in 25 investigations since it opened on July 1 and that another 181 referrals were being assessed.
The commissioner has previously referenced the robo-debt royal commission and “ongoing revelations concerning the conduct of firms retained as consultants to government”. These include PwC partners using confidential tax office information to advise multinational clients.
Mr Brereton said the NACC’s priorities were “directed to methods in which a corruption investigation by the commission will add value in the public interest”.
“That means that we’re more likely to be interested in matters involving senior officials matters that have a significant impact – financial or otherwise on the public interests – or matters that are systemic.
“We won’t necessarily be disposed to reinvestigate matters that have already been thoroughly investigated simply to characterise them as corrupt or not, when that won’t add value in the public interest.”
Mr Brereton stepped warily around the prosecution of military lawyer David McBride, who has pleaded guilty to sharing classified information on the Afghanistan war with media outlets.
“I have to be very careful about what is appropriate to say on this topic.” he said in reply to an audience question.
“But you should have regard to what the Crown counsel said that McBride had aimed to achieve. You should have regard to what his own counsel said he aimed to achieve.
“And there is a difference between whistleblowing within a recognised system … or to a commission, and disclosing information that is classified by law.”