Reporting Corruption or Misconduct

If you have a report to make about corruption or misconduct, Victoria has several agencies that receive reports from the general public. Which agency you should report to depends on the type of organisation you are complaining about (local government, the police, or state government), and the type of issue involved (eg. an administrative issue or disputed outcome, or misconduct or corruption) as well as its severity. 

Public integrity agencies refer reports received from the public to each other to ensure that there is no ‘wrong door’ to knock on when making a report. However, knowing the right agency can ensure your report is correctly and efficiently addressed. 

Victoria’s integrity agencies

Victoria’s integrity system consists of three main independent agencies that share a collective aim to protect the integrity of Victoria’s public sector and its police. The Victorian Inspectorate and Victorian Parliamentary committees oversee all three agencies, which include:

  • The Victorian Ombudsman (VO) – investigates administrative actions of state government departments, local councils and statutory authorities. It can take complaints about council services, compliance with policies or actions, or decisions that may be unreasonable.
    • Contact: 1800 806 314 (between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday)

      Alternatively, you can lodge a complaint on the Ombudsman’s online complaints portal.

  • The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) – exposes and prevents public sector corruption and police misconduct. The Commission’s large remit covers state and local governments in Victoria, Victoria Police, as well as the judiciary. IBAC receives complaints about suspected corruption and misconduct, including taking or offering bribes, committing fraud or theft and misusing information or resources for personal gain or advantage. 
    • Phone: 1300 735 135 (between 10am – 4pm, Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays).

    • Web-based complaints: 
    • Email: info@ibac.vic.gov.au
  • The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) – Provides independent assurance to the parliament and the Victorian community on the state’s financial integrity and performance. In contrast to the VO and IBAC, VAGO does not generally field complaints from the public. Instead, it conducts regular audits of government performance and publishes the results of these in public reports.

Additionally, the Local Government Inspectorate (LGI) assesses and investigates complaints about potential breaches of the Local Government Act 2020 by councils, councillors and staff, including:

  • conflict of interest
  • misuse of position
  • disclosure of confidential information
  • directing council staff
  • electoral offences.
The LGI can investigate: However, it cannot investigate:
✔ misuse of position by a councillor ✗ planning
✔ conflict of interest by a councillor, senior council employee or person providing advice to council ✗ council services
✔ disclosure of confidential material ✗ council decisions (unless there is a conflict of interest)
✔ council election offences ✗ code of conduct issues
✔ nomination of someone not qualified to be a council election candidate ✗ performance of council staff, unless related to offences under the act
✔ authorisation of electoral material ✗ council fines
  ✗ council rates
  ✗ noise complaints

LGI contact details:

What is the difference between the LGI and IBAC? 

Although there is an overlap between the LGI and IBAC when it comes to overseeing local government integrity and preventing corruption, there are important distinctions that you should consider before making a report.

The LGI’s focus is predominantly on ensuring compliance with the Local Government Act and investigates issues such as misconduct of local councils or councillors, conflicts of interest, misuse of public resources, and breaches of governance standards within the local government sector. If such an issue is confined to a particular local government area, the LGI would probably be the right choice. If a complaint pertains to administrative fairness, maladministration, or improper conduct in a broader geography, or if it is related to the state government, the Victorian Ombudsman would be the appropriate choice.

In contrast to the LGI and the Ombudsman, IBAC’s focus is specifically on serious and systemic corruption and misconduct. IBAC will examine a complaint to determine if it meets this threshold. If it does not, the complaint will be referred to the Ombudsman or another body. Likewise, other agencies will escalate and refer complaints about serious corruption or misconduct to IBAC. IBAC has special powers that permit it to conduct public examinations and hearings, issue search warrants, and compel witnesses to provide evidence. It can also independently launch ‘own motion’ investigations, led by its own information and intelligence.

Who can report corruption or misconduct?

Any member of the public can report improper conduct or corruption. Certain situations can qualify complainants and whistleblowers for protection under the Public Interest Disclosures Act. This legislation serves to protect complainants from discrimination and retribution, such as through loss of employment, that they could otherwise be vulnerable to by reporting corruption or misconduct. Importantly, it can also protect the identity of a complainant, allowing them to remain anonymous. 

Before making a report, it is important to know what behaviour you are addressing and whether it meets the criteria for integrity agencies. Integrity agencies can often receive, but are not in a position to address, complaints regarding unrelated issues, such as:

  • disputes related to traffic fines
  • disputes with private sector companies
  • disputes related to electricity, water or gas bills
  • service-related issues experienced at Commonwealth government bodies, such as Centrelink or Australia Post, or a Victorian state government departments and agencies, such as the VicRoads.

Such complaints can often be made directly to these organisations. If that is not possible, a list of agencies that can address these and other issues that are unrelated to integrity can be found by following this link.

How do I make a complaint or provide information about corruption or misconduct?

A complaint should detail the alleged conduct, including who was involved, what happened, where and when, and any supporting documentation.

Alternatively, you can simply provide information, which could assist in triggering an investigation or assist agencies in preventing corruption.

You can make a complaint or provide information anonymously. However, providing your contact details allows the receiving agency to keep you informed about the status and outcome of your complaint or provision of information. They may also contact you to obtain further information. In certain circumstances, the Public Interest Disclosures Act can provide you with protections.

You can find more information about making complaints and providing information on the IBAC website.

Definitions

Corruption

Corruption is the misuse of public power, position, authority or funding for personal gain or to obtain an unfair advantage. It can happen through:

  • failing to declare or manage conflict of interest. This includes where a person in a position of power has competing personal or financial interests that could compromise their objectivity or impartiality in decision-making.
  • bribery: offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting money, gifts, or favours to influence the actions or decisions 
  • embezzlement: Misappropriating funds entrusted to an individual, typically an employee, for personal use or gain. This often occurs within organisations or businesses.
  • nepotism: favouritism shown to family members or close friends by someone in a position of power, leading to the unfair allocation of resources, opportunities, or positions
  • extortion: coercing someone into providing money, property, or services through threats, intimidation, or other forms of pressure.
  • kickbacks: illicit payments made to individuals in exchange for preferential treatment, contracts, or business opportunities
  • misusing public resources, including funds, property, or services, for personal gain, or for the benefit of a select group
  • misuse of information, such as the unauthorised release of confidential information to give and advantage to bidders during tender processes
  • bid rigging: colluding with others to manipulate the bidding process for contracts, ensuring that a particular bidder wins and others are excluded
  • graft: illicit gains acquired through corrupt practices, often involving the exploitation of one’s position for personal enrichment
  • blackmail: threatening to reveal damaging or embarrassing information about someone unless they comply with certain demands, often for financial gain.

Misconduct

Misconduct, or improper conduct, refers to any inappropriate or improper behaviour, actions, or conduct. In terms of  can involve:

  • serious misconduct: including theft of public resources such as money or equipment, or using a corporate credit card to buy personal items
  • acts of fraud: specifically involving deceptive practices with the intent to deceive for personal or financial gain
  • actions that are a risk to public health, safety or the environment, including ignoring a serious threat or risk to someone’s safety
  • conduct that prevents or negatively affects honest work responsibilities, like accepting gifts, benefits and hospitality in return for special treatment
  • violating rules, regulations, ethical standards, or expectations within a particular context, including public sector codes of conduct
  • dishonest actions: including favouring a friend or relative during a procurement or recruitment process
  • misusing information or material, whether it is for personal benefit or not
  • bullying, stalking or abuse in the workplace
  • criminal or corrupt activity.