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What happens at the end of a NACC investigation?

The National Anti-Corruption Commission commenced operations on 1 July 2023.

Please visit the NACC website for more information.

This page explains what happens after a corruption investigation under the National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022 (the NACC Act) is completed.

After completing a corruption investigation, the Commissioner of the NACC must write a report that sets out their opinions, findings and recommendations. This includes saying whether they found evidence of serious or systemic corrupt conduct. The Commissioner may make recommendations to Commonwealth agencies about actions they must take.

A report cannot be finalised until those who are subject to critical findings have had an opportunity to respond.

The Commissioner may publish the whole or a part of an investigation report if they have already provided a copy to the relevant Minister or the Prime Minister, and they are satisfied that it is in the public interest.

To find out more about the investigations process, see How can the NACC Commissioner deal with a corruption issue?.

What happens after an investigation is completed

The Commissioner must write a report detailing the investigation outcomes

Once a corruption investigation is complete, the Commissioner must prepare a report and give it to the Attorney-General. The report must include:

  • the Commissioner’s findings or opinions on the corruption issue and summarise the evidence on which those findings or opinions are based
  • any recommendations the Commissioner thinks appropriate (such as how an agency should respond to the findings).

See National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022, section 149

Findings or opinions

If, as a result of the evidence gathered during the investigation, the Commissioner is of the opinion that a person engaged or did not engage in serious or systemic corrupt conduct, the Commissioner must make a statement to that effect in the report.  

A finding that a person engaged in corrupt conduct is not the same as a finding that a person is guilty of or has committed a crime – only a court can decide this.

However, the NACC may find evidence of a crime in the course of investigating corruption. In some cases, the NACC can share the evidence with the head of a police force or a director of public prosecutions. The police force or public prosecutor would then consider whether to conduct a criminal investigation or prosecute a person for a crime.

See National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022, section 229

Recommendations to agencies

The Commissioner may make any recommendation they consider appropriate in their report and must also detail the reasons for making them. For example, the Commissioner may choose to make recommendations that an agency:

  • take specific action against a person – such as action to improve the person’s performance or to terminate their employment
  • implement measures to address the impact of the specific corrupt conduct that occurred
  • implement measures to strengthen weak policies, procedures or practices that enabled the corruption to occur.

See National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022, section 149

Giving those mentioned in the report the opportunity to respond

The Commissioner will sometimes include a critical (express or implied) finding, recommendation or opinion about a person, Commonwealth agency or state or territory government entity in a report.

Examples of critical opinions or findings are that:

  • a person has behaved corruptly
  • a Commonwealth agency took too long to refer a corruption issue to the NACC, and
  • an organisation’s culture and practices did not adequately prevent the corruption from occurring.

An example of a critical recommendation is that an agency should improve their recruitment practices to more effectively screen candidates who will have access to high-value agency resources and assets.

The NACC cannot finalise a report until those who are the subject of critical findings, opinions or recommendations have had an opportunity to respond in writing. The NACC must wait a reasonable time for the person or entity to respond. An individual can have someone respond on their behalf, such as their lawyer. A person who is the subject of a finding or opinion that they engaged in corrupt conduct can request that the NACC include their response in the final report, and the Commissioner must generally comply.

See National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022, sections 153 and 157

Protecting sensitive information

Some information must be excluded from the main NACC investigation report, because it is sensitive and publishing it is not in the public interest. This includes information:

  • about Australia’s national security, defence, or international relations
  • that could reveal the identity of informants in criminal investigations, or agents of an intelligence agency
  • about Cabinet deliberations
  • that could endanger a person’s life or physical safety if it was revealed, and
  • that would unreasonably reveal details of someone’s private life.

The NACC must not include this information in its main investigation report. Instead, the NACC must include it in a separate ‘protected information report’, and must also explain why it was excluded from the main report.

Protected information reports cannot be published. This means this information will not be included in a copy of the report if it is tabled in Parliament or that the Commissioner decides to publish.

See National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022, sections 151 and 152

Informing people about the outcome of an investigation

Some people must always receive a copy of the investigation report (and, in some cases, any protected information report) from the Commissioner. These include the:

  • Attorney-General (unless the investigation concerned the conduct of the Attorney‑General)
  • Prime Minister (if the investigation concerned the conduct of the Attorney-General or another current Minister)
  • head of the Commonwealth agency whose staff member’s conduct was investigated, or – if the investigation concerned the head of the agency – the relevant Minister and the Australian Public Service Commissioner
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives or the President of the Senate (if the corruption involved a member of either House of Parliament).

The NACC may choose to inform the person who referred the corruption issue about the outcome of the investigation. The NACC can do this by giving a copy of the report, or part of the report, to that person.

Publishing reports

The Commissioner may publish the whole or a part of an investigation report if they have already provided a copy to the relevant Minister or the Prime Minister, and they are satisfied that it is in the public interest.

The Attorney-General must table a report in Parliament if public hearings were held during the investigation. This means that after tabling, the report is publicly available.

The NACC cannot publish a protected information report. In some cases, the Commissioner may be required to consult again with any person or entity who is subject to a critical finding, opinion or recommendation before publishing the investigation report.

See National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022, section 154 and 156

Timeframes for completing investigations and publishing reports

The NACC can decide when an investigation is complete. Sometimes, it will be appropriate to defer completing an investigation and preparing the report – such as to wait for a related criminal, disciplinary, or administrative process to finish to avoid influencing it.

The Commissioner can decide when to publish their investigation report. For example, the Commissioner may decide not to publish a report immediately if they have referred evidence of a crime to a police force or public prosecutor. This helps to ensure the person who was under investigation has a fair trial in court if they are prosecuted for an offence.

Implementing report recommendations

If the Commissioner’s investigation report recommends that a Commonwealth agency take a particular action, the agency is required to provide details of any action it has taken, or proposes to take, in response to the recommendation within the specified timeframe. 

See National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022, section 160

Termination of employment

The NACC Commissioner may recommend the employment of a staff member be terminated.

The Public Service Regulations 2003 provide a ground for termination on the basis of a recommendation from the Commissioner. This is relevant for those agencies subject to the regulation’s remit. Agencies would nevertheless be expected to provide procedural fairness to an employee before a decision is made to terminate their employment on this ground.

See Public Service Regulations, regulation 15(2)

Follow up action

Under the NACC Act, the Commissioner can follow up with heads of Commonwealth agencies to ensure they are taking the actions recommended. The Commissioner can do this by:

  • giving the agency head a copy of the investigation report
  • requesting the agency head tell the NACC what they have done, or will do, in response to the recommendation.

If the agency head does not respond, or the Commissioner is not satisfied with their response, the Commissioner can raise the issue with that agency’s portfolio Minister. Alternatively, if the agency is a parliamentary department or the office of a parliamentarian, the Commissioner can refer the issue to the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the President of the Senate.

See National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022, section 160

Learn more

For further information and resources, visit NACC downloadable resources.