Safety inspectors should wear body cameras and work in pairs in order to limit their vulnerability to corruption and industry ‘grooming’, according to an anti corruption inquiry.
Earlier this year, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) began an investigation into SafeWork SA’s practices, policies, and procedures following several complaints over its integrity (see related article). The findings of the inquiry are expected to affect all jurisdictions, after the ICAC concluded inspectors across the country all operate under the same “competing pressures” (see related article).
As part of that inquiry, the ICAC are investigating whether any improvements can be made to minimise the potential for corruption, misconduct or maladministration.
Counsel assisting the investigation, Holly Stanley, said having two SafeWork inspectors on an inspection protected them from inaccurate accusations and improved inspector safety. Stanley also said that inspectors are likely to feel more confident in a pair, and therefore “less likely to decide not to issue a notice where such a notice should have been issued.”
“I recognise that inherent in this recommendation is a serious resource question… [but] it is undoubtedly the case that the risks of corruption, misconduct and maladministration are significantly heightened by only one inspector attending a site visit.”
In her closing submissions to the inquiry, Stanley added that inspectors were vulnerable to industry ‘grooming’ through the “creation of a perceived friendship and the distribution of gifts”.
“Grooming can lead to capture, which occurs when regulators and their staff potentially begin to align their value and actions with that of the industry they are regulating, rather than with the values and legislative purpose of the regulator.”
“Whilst some staff in SafeWork SA suggested that the risk of grooming and capture was low, during the course of the evaluation many examples were provided of circumstances in which staff had been offered gifts, or otherwise thought they had been the subject of an attempt to influence.”
“Often people who are captured, don’t realise that they’ve been captured. The risk of grooming and capture occurring as a result of the offers of gifts and benefits is present and therefore it needs to be tightly controlled.”
Other recommendations include the establishment of a strict gifts and benefits policy, and the use of GPS tracking in government vehicles.
SafeWork staff, along with members of the public and industry stakeholders, are invited to make written submissions on the recommendations by September 21.