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The Integrity Commission has dismissed allegations against former Minister for Human Services, the Hon Jacquie Petrusma, and her chief of staff after an investigation found that no misconduct had occurred.

In an investigation report for Operation Ireh, tabled in State Parliament today, the Commission dismissed the original complaint and allegations that arose in the course of the investigation into the former Minister and her then-chief of staff, Suzie Jacobson.

Integrity Commission CEO, Richard Bingham, said despite the fact that the allegations had been dismissed, the Board had decided to release the report as the investigation related to governance and processes at the highest level, making it a matter of significant public interest.

The investigation was conducted following a complaint from the Hon Josh Willie MLC that a member of the Minister’s staff had attempted to improperly influence the way in which then-Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mark Morrissey, performed his role.

The report said that while it was clear that a misunderstanding had arisen between Ms Jacobson and the Commissioner, none of the four allegations against Ms Jacobson were found to have amounted to misconduct or any breach of relevant legislation.

The investigation found that communication problems between Ms Jacobson and Mr Morrissey had contributed to the misunderstanding. It concluded that the relationship had not always been harmonious and had deteriorated over time.

The investigation also found no factual basis for the allegations that Ms Petrusma adversely affected the performance of the Commissioner’s powers or failed to respect his apolitical role.

“While the interaction between the ministerial office and the Commissioner was robust on occasion, it did not prevent him from doing his job properly. However, the investigation serves to highlight the way in which the roles of ministerial staffers and statutory officers differ,” Mr Bingham said.

“Ministerial staff members have a particular responsibility to assist their minister and, like other public servants, they are bound by requirements of their code of conduct contained within their terms of appointment. Statutory officers provide an independent view in the interests of the broad community, not just sectional or political interests, and it is important that they can carry out their role freely, as Parliament intends when it creates such offices,” Mr Bingham said.

Mr Bingham said that the substantive investigation had been completed by the end of last year but release of the report had been delayed due to the time needed to complete the procedural fairness process required under the Integrity Commission Act 2009, the necessity to seek legal advice to clarify an aspect of the legislation in regard to tabling reports queried by the parties, and the fact that Parliament did not sit until after the recent election.

Richard Bingham
Chief Executive Officer
4 July 2018

Media contact:
Michael Easton
Manager Operations
1300 720 289