• Tue. Sep 20th, 2022

Queensland Civil Service Commission chief denies not cooperating with lobbying audit

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will not say whether she still trusts the head of the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC), who has denied being uncooperative during a lobbying audit .

PSC chief Robert Setter, who has become one of the central figures in the enduring integrity saga that has engulfed the government, was one of 21 department heads to whom the Integrity Commissioner has asked to review their contact records held locally by lobbyists between December 2019 and November. 2020.

In a February 2021 letter, published in the ABC, Mr Setter pointed out that the Integrity Act “does not appear to contemplate agencies carrying out audits”, but he said he would be “happy” to provide a copy of the PSC register.

Despite this, it was not done. But Mr Setter denied refusing to cooperate.

“I have not refused to cooperate. I have responded and offered to assist the Integrity Commissioner in fulfilling her legal obligation by providing a copy of the Civil Service Commission register for this period,” said Mr. Setter in a statement.

‘As I expressed to the Director General, Prime Minister and Cabinet Department this morning, I regret that I did not follow up by providing the register.’

He said the PSC’s register for this period “registers a zero response”, adding that staff were asked monthly to log any contact with lobbyists and that the organization had no history of working with lobbyists.

“It should have been done”

Speaking at a press conference today, Ms Palaszczuk said ‘it should have been done’ and that her chief executive had spoken to Mr Setter, although she would not say when it happened product.

When asked if she trusted Mr Setter, Ms Palaszczuk replied: ‘I expect the heads of my department to comply with the correspondence they receive – incoming and outgoing.’

Opposition leader David Crisafulli said it was “very concerning”.

State Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov advises deputies and senior state officials on potential conflicts of interest and manages the state lobbying registry.

“Substantial” increase in lobbying activity

At a hearing on the estimates in July, Dr Stepanov said there had been a “substantial” increase in lobbying activity over the past two fiscal years.

Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov backed calls for a formal review of the inference in his office by the PSC.(PA: Dan Peled)

The PSC is responsible for the budget, staff and resources of the Queensland Integrity Commissioner – a governance arrangement not replicated for any other state integrity agency.

In recent weeks, Dr Stepanov – who ends his duties as Integrity Commissioner in July – has backed calls for a formal review of the inference in his office by the PSC.

This follows allegations raised in Queensland parliament last year that the PSC seized a laptop from the Integrity Commissioner’s office and information was erased.

Mr Setter denied that the PSC had ‘raided’ the offices of the Integrity Commissioner or ‘seized anything’ from the Integrity Commissioner, but confirmed that a laptop had been ‘provided to the CCC at his request”.

He declined to answer further questions, saying “to protect the integrity of the investigation and to comply with the law, it would not be appropriate to make any further comments.”