The Office of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption was left embarrassed and forced to pull its latest corruption report from public circulation yesterday after an email from an involved party was discovered in the office’s junk email folder.
The report, into a Darwin City Council procurement process, had found a former employee engaged in corrupt conduct and had not properly dealt with a conflict of interest when she hired another person for a job.
The report added that the woman had not provided a response to the OICAC in relation to the adverse findings, which is part of the “natural justice process” afforded to people being investigated.
Five hours after publishing the report by deputy commissioner Rex Wild, the OICAC issued a statement to say the report had been removed from its website and that the woman had in fact provided a response which had gone to the junk folder.
“An email with attached letter from a party mentioned in the report, who was responding to the ICAC’s natural justice process, was classified by government computer security filters, automatically placed in a ‘junk’ email folder and was not seen,” the statement said.
“As a result, the report incorrectly referred to ‘no response being provided by the party’.
“Today the letter was brought to the ICAC’s attention by the party’s lawyer and the report was immediately removed from the OICAC’s website.”
It is a huge embarrassment for the anti-corruption watchdog, which the NT Independent understands is in the process of releasing numerous reports before the end of the financial year.
It remains unclear why nobody in the office was checking the “junk email folder” or what treasures might be contained therein.
“The ICAC takes their obligations under the Act extremely seriously and is rectifying this matter with the affected party, which may result in the report being reissued,” the statement said.
“Accountability is a core ICAC value and internal processes have been reviewed to reduce the risk of this type of administrative error reoccurring.”
Commissioner Ken Fleming issued an extraordinary public statement on Wednesday, retracting the findings and apologising to the two women at the centre of the investigation for not being afforded natural justice.