On the Commissioner’s and the Cabinet’s recommendation, the Governor appointed Mr Paul Alsbury as Deputy Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption for a term of three years. Paul commenced in the role on 14 February 2022.
Paul, welcome to the ICAC. Our first impression of you was rather obvious and that is that you are very tall. What was your first impression of the ICAC?
Thank you. I was pleased that no-one asked me if I played basketball, which I do get asked quite often (usually by complete strangers).
My first impression of the ICAC was that it was full of dedicated people with a lot of experience in, and commitment to, preventing and investigating corruption. The ICAC is a smaller organisation than what I am used to, but the teamwork and enthusiasm of its people mean that the whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts.
What attracted you to the role?
I was looking for a change and Adelaide seemed like a great place to live. I was very excited when the role was advertised as it presented a great opportunity to utilise my experience in preventing and investigating corruption, while moving to a fantastic city. I had been lucky enough to work with an excellent boss at the Crime and Corruption Commission in Queensland, and everything I had heard about Commissioner Vanstone led me to believe I would be working with an excellent boss at the ICAC (and that has proved to be the case!).
As you have just said, you come to us from the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commissioner. Can you tell us a little bit about your career path that has lead you here?
I am a lawyer by trade and started in the legal profession as an articled law clerk (i.e. an apprentice solicitor) and then became a solicitor. For a lot of my career, I worked as a Crown Prosecutor in Queensland, before moving on to heading up the prosecution team at Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR). I also worked in an Executive Director role at DTMR, heading up some of the department’s transport regulation functions. I then worked as the head of the Queensland Police Service’s Legal Division, before moving on to Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission as the Senior Executive Officer (Corruption). In the middle of all that (2008 and 2009), I lived in London for about 15 months, and worked as a Probation Prosecutor at the London Probation Service and as a Prosecution Lawyer at the Food Standards Agency.
You’ve obviously got a lot of experience in public integrity. What do you think the primary integrity issues are in public administration currently?
A big integrity issue relates to declaring and managing conflicts of interest. We constantly see conflict of interest issues come up in processes relating to things such as procurement and recruitment. It is important for agencies to have a culture where staff feel free to discuss whether something constitutes a conflict of interest, and conflicts of interest are declared and managed appropriately. Even where a conflict does not actually affect decision-making, its very presence (or the fact that it has not been managed) may undermine a process and lead to undue stress and reputational damage to successful applicants or tenderers.
Another issue relates to having proper governance frameworks (systems, policies and procedures), and ensuring staff know about and are trained in them and checks and audits occur to ensure frameworks are complied with.
A third issue is the improper access and use of confidential information – public sector governance frameworks and electronic systems need to be implemented and built to manage this risk.
From your experience, what do you think the biggest challenges will be for public administration in the future?
Common challenges for public sector agencies, and for integrity agencies like the ICAC, are identifying risk areas for fraud and corruption, and identifying what works in terms of corruption prevention. If I had to nominate two, I would nominate code of conduct training (when an employee starts with an organisation and regularly after that), and internal auditing.
The increasing use of technology continues to present challenges to public sector agencies. Of course, it presents many benefits – for example, never before have public sector agencies had so many ways in which to engage with their customers and stakeholders. In the corruption and fraud prevention space, the ability to phase out cash payments is a simple example, as accepting cash payments and handling cash presents a fraud and corruption risk. Data analytics is another example of utilising technology to detect corruption and fraud, and identify risk areas.
What have you enjoyed most about Adelaide in the short time you’ve been here?
Adelaide is a beautiful city, and the weather has, for the most part, been excellent since I have been here. The people are also very friendly (although I have noticed that beeping of car horns in traffic is quite prevalent).