The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has decided not to pursue referrals concerning six public officials from the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme as it would not add value in the public interest.

The NACC said it has carefully considered each referral and reviewed the extensive material provided by the Robodebt Royal Commission, including its final report, and the Confidential Chapter.

“The Commission is conscious of the impact of the Robodebt Scheme on individuals and the public, the seniority of the officials involved, and the need to ensure that any corruption issue is fully investigated.”

“However, the conduct of the six public officials in connection with the Robodebt Scheme has already been fully explored by the Robodebt Royal Commission and extensively discussed in its final report. After close consideration of the evidence that was available to the Royal Commission, the Commission has concluded that it is unlikely it would obtain significant new evidence,” said the NACC in a statement.

The NACC also said it was aware that five of the six public officials were also the subject of referrals to the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC).

“In the absence of a real likelihood of a further investigation producing significant new evidence, it is undesirable for a number of reasons to conduct multiple investigations into the same matter. This includes the risk of inconsistent outcomes, and the oppression involved in subjecting individuals to repeated investigations.”

“In deciding whether to commence a corruption investigation, the Commission takes into account a range of factors. A significant consideration is whether a corruption investigation would add value in the public interest, and that is particularly relevant where there are or have been other investigations into the same matter. There is not value in duplicating work that has been or is being done by others, in this case with the investigatory powers of the Royal Commission, and the remedial powers of the APSC.”

“Beyond considering whether the conduct in question amounted to corrupt conduct within the meaning of the Act and, if satisfied, making such a finding, the Commission cannot grant a remedy or impose a sanction (as the APSC can). Nor could it make any recommendation that could not have been made by the Robodebt Royal Commission. An investigation by the Commission would not provide any individual remedy or redress for the recipients of government payments or their families who suffered due to the Robodebt Scheme.”

The NACC said the outcomes of the Robodebt Royal Commission contain lessons of great importance for enhancing integrity in the Commonwealth public sector and the accountability of public officials. The NACC will therefore continue through its investigation, inquiry, and corruption prevention and education functions, to address the integrity issues raised in the final report, particularly in relation to ethical decision making, to ensure that those lessons are learnt, and to hold public officials to account.

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