While many people understand the ICAC’s role in identifying and investigating corruption, the power to evaluate the practices, policies and procedures of an agency is less well understood.

An ICAC evaluation is different to an investigation. Evaluations are not focused on individual conduct, but instead seek to gain an in depth understanding of an agency’s operations and how an agency guards against integrity risks.

In late June, the former Deputy Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Mr Michael Riches, completed his evaluation of the practices, policies and procedures of the Department for Correctional Services.

The evaluation looked specifically at the unique integrity risks inherent in South Australian prison environments, as well as the Department’s governance framework, and human resource and information management.

In making the decision to conduct the evaluation, Mr Riches noted that the Office for Public Integrity (OPI) had received more than 500 complaints and reports about the Department and two privately run prisons since the ICAC and OPI commenced in 2013. A total of 51 corruption investigations have been undertaken by the current and former Commissioner, and a further 57 matters have been referred to South Australia Police for investigation.

Prisons face well-documented corruption risks that are explored in the report. Broadly, these stem from depriving liberty from a population with complex and significant needs, the isolated nature of prisons, and the need for corrections officers to maintain appropriate relationships with prisoners to ensure order.

In his report, Mr Riches commented on the openness and cooperation received from the Department’s Chief Executive and executive staff throughout the evaluation. A survey of Department employees was conducted, and more than a quarter of staff responded, indicating a willingness to contribute to the evaluation.

Overall, the evaluation identified the Department has a good suite of policies and procedures. The former Deputy Commissioner made 24 recommendations to improve accountability and integrity. All recommendations were accepted by the Department for Correctional Services. The recommendations suggested improvements in areas such as staff training, performance management and recruitment, prison security, and the management of conflicts of interest.

The evaluation report is relevant reading for anyone working in correctional environments. It also covers issues relevant more broadly to integrity in law enforcement and any other areas of public administration that involve working with vulnerable populations. The full report – Evaluation of the Practices, Policies and Procedures of the Department for Correctional Services– is available to download on the ICAC website.