Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Ken Fleming has broken his silence over the NT News’ recent onslaught of criticism, telling the NT Independent he will be addressing the issue “at the appropriate time” and said he hoped the NT News was pursuing the matter with “legitimate journalistic purpose”.
Mr Fleming appeared at Estimates on Tuesday, where he was asked by the Opposition about reports that his office is being investigated by ICAC Inspector Bruce McClintock for awarding investigative contracts to the “domestic partner” of its investigations director.
While maintaining his office had appropriately managed the conflict of interest, and that he referred a complaint to the ICAC Inspector himself, Mr Fleming also suggested at the time that the source who had told the NT News about the investigation had done so out of “jealousy” and was a disgruntled former employee. He added that he would be looking into how the matter was given to the newspaper.
“The material from the paper, I can assure you, has come out of our office contrary to the ICAC Act, contrary to the Oaths Act, and I intend to follow it up,” he said.
Mr Fleming also told the hearing that journalists appearing before the ICAC could not claim journalistic privilege to protect sources the way they could at judicial hearings.
That led to a series of front page stories in the NT News about Mr Fleming, including rounding up three former Attorneys-General who yesterday called for an overhaul of the Office of the ICAC based on Mr Fleming’s comments at Estimates.
That story suggested in the headline that “pressure” was mounting on the ICAC and was followed by another front page story today about Mr Fleming being on personal leave.
The NT News‘ website then published a statement by the NT Police Association today, scolding Mr Fleming in a statement for what they called “grandstanding” during Estimates hearings earlier this week, saying his position is now “untenable”.
“This behaviour demonstrates utter contempt for his own office and it appears he has clearly forgotten his own Mission statement and ICAC values,” NTPA president Paul McCue said in the statement.
“The ICAC Commissioner’s appointment is now clearly untenable, and the fact he remains is a reflection on the weak leadership of Chief Minister Michael Gunner, who is the responsible Minister.
“The whole concept of protection of witnesses who come forward with allegations of corrupt behaviour is fundamental to the success of ICAC.
“But (it) seems when that whistleblower is complaining about the ICAC itself, they will be threatened with exposure by the Commissioner charged with protecting them.”
When contacted by the NT Independent, Mr Fleming said he would be back at work on Sunday from three days of leave and would be responding to the allegations.
“I’ll respond to any allegations made in the NT News at the appropriate time and at the appropriate place,” he said.
“I trust that the NT News is pursuing this with legitimate journalistic purpose in respect of the allegations they are making.”
Mr Fleming is due to retire from the role of ICAC on July 5.