Former chief minister Michael Gunner refused to handover documents to the ICAC related to a “serious allegation” that a public servant had misled Cabinet, a new report to Parliament has revealed.
Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Michael Riches said that he had met with Mr Gunner while he was chief minister during an investigation and requested that he consider providing Cabinet submissions “relevant to the matter and to permit persons with knowledge of the submission to speak to me about it”.
“During that meeting I handed the then-chief minister a letter addressing the issue and outlining my request,” he wrote in the parliamentary report tabled Thursday night, after Mr Gunner’s resignation as the Member for Fannie Bay.
“Ultimately, the then-chief minister declined my request.”
Mr Riches explained that he had received “information alleging that the content of a cabinet submission had been edited by a public officer so as to be misleading as to the true state of affairs”, after commencing his role as ICAC.
“I considered it to be a serious allegation that warranted investigation,” he said.
“However, given the constraints imposed by section 79(2) of the ICAC Act, I was not in a position to compel or otherwise require a person to provide me with the cabinet submissions relating to the matter.”
Mr Gunner’s government wrote the ICAC legislation, that prevents documents related to privilege or “confidential information” of Cabinet from being accessed by the anti-corruption commissioner.
Mr Riches said that prevented him from obtaining the information he sought and that Mr Gunner was within his rights not to handover the documents because of the current legislation.
“I do not criticise the then chef minister for that response. He was entitled to respond in that way because he was entitled to rely upon a provision passed by the Parliament,” he said.
“Nevertheless, that decision has meant that my investigation had to be closed.”
The issue was first raised last month during Estimates hearings, but it was not made public that Mr Gunner had rejected the ICAC’s request for the documents.
It remains unclear whether current Chief Minister Natasha Fyles will release the documents Mr Riches had requested.