true. But it is also true that corruption in the Commonwealth government is just as prevalent as elsewhere in Australia. Not only are a substantial number of allegations formally lodged every day against APS staff, but most of those are never independently examined. Previously unpublished audits obtained by the
record more than 3800 internal investigations in nine departments in roughly the past three years.
The Department of Defence has been home to another 1300 in the same period and there are scores of other agencies whose files remain secret. The Australian Taxation Office has conducted 883 internal investigations in the past two years. Last year, in 10 agencies, there were 21 cases of alleged corruption, 65 conflicts of interest, and 247 cases of fraud.
The public has heard about none of these, and many, on the evidence seen by the
, appear to have been handled discreetly to avoid public embarrassment. Indeed, there were only 11 referrals to the federal police by the entire Commonwealth government last year. The internal audit files obtained by the
also show widespread corruption risks - poorly-managed procurements worth many millions of dollars, shoddy information security measures such as passwords
which are never expunged and a culture of rorting travel benefits, salary entitlements or department credit cards. In 2007, Griffith University published data from a survey of 8000 public servants about fraud and misconduct. Canberra scored as well, or as poorly, as NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, which all have
corruption-busting agencies. A total of 22 per cent had direct evidence of the rorting of entitlements, 31 per cent had seen a cover-up of poor performance and 10 per cent had seen someone use their status to obtain personal favours. More federal employees had seen money stolen, resources improperly used for personal gain or pornography downloaded to a work computer than their state counterparts.
Crucially, only marginally fewer Commonwealth employees (2.4 per cent) had direct evidence of the payment of bribes than those in NSW (2.9 per cent). The Australian Public Service Commission guides the bureaucracy on values and conduct. The Australian National Audit Office audits spending and performance. The Commonwealth Ombudsman handles complaints. And almost every department has its own audit unit.
They say where cases of serious corruption emerge - Moon is an example, as is Nick Petroulias, the former assistant tax commissioner jailed in 2008 for selling classified information - the AFP has the powers needed to investigate. But there are several problems with this position. ''They have a conflict of interest,'' John McMillan, the former Commonwealth Ombudsman, says. ''They do not want to expose a weakness in their own procedures or have the public questioning the integrity of their
process. By and large the interest of an agency is to avoid any publicity questioning … its efficiency or
integrity.'' Of 500 internal fraud cases recorded in the Department of Immigration in the past two years, only six were referred to the AFP. Last year, Centrelink investigated 337 of its employees for misconduct including conflicts of interest, fraud
and abuse of office. In 2008, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs investigated 138 allegations that staff obtained a benefit by deception, and 475 misconduct cases between July 2007 and December 2009. How many cases were referred to the AFP by each agency in the past two years? One.