In their sights: Port Council faces investigation by new integrity watchdog

On 10 July 2013, News Limited reported that the South Australian Office of Public Integrity (OPI) has been asked to investigate a series of allegations regarding the practices of the Port Adelaide Enfield Council. The OPI deals with complaints involving misconduct, maladministration and corruption and acts as a gatekeeper for the South Australian Independent Commission Against Corruption. Should the OPI decide that the claims require investigation, it would be among the first cases to go before the South Australian ICAC, which becomes fully operational on 1 September 2013. Ombudsman Richard Bingham initially conducted an investigation before referring the matter to the OPI. The Ombudsman's investigation was triggered by complaints from a former senior staff member who alleged that the Council has a history of "excessive use of payouts and redundancies". The senior staff member also questioned the Council's procurement practices.

Miners nervous of anti-bribery laws

On 10 July 2013, the Australian Financial Review reported on the response from the Australia-Africa Mining Industry Group (AAMIG) to Canadian developments regarding facilitation payments – a facilitation payment is usually a small amount paid to obtain routine government services. The Canadian government announced last month that it would make facilitation payments illegal and punishable by fines and jail sentences. The AAMIG, which represents more than 100 mining and mining services companies, has warned Australian political leaders that following the Canadian legislation will only make it harder to do business in Africa. The industry body argues that facilitation payments are an integral part of getting business done in many poor, undeveloped African nations. AAMIG president Bill Turner said: "Until the level of economic well-being in these countries lifts as a result of investment and governments have revenue to do what they should be doing, including paying their employees reasonable salaries, then this behaviour is going to continue.”

ASIC releases information sheets on involvement in private court proceedings and providing information to private litigants

On 25 June 2013, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) released two information sheets (INFO 180 and 181) outlining its approach to private litigation and provision of information. INFO 180 identifies ASIC’s ability to commence and intervene in private proceedings, which will be guided by general principles such as whether the matter is of strategic regulatory significance, its regulatory benefit, cost and any available alternatives to intervention. INFO 181 outlines ASIC’s policy in assisting private litigants by providing information and documents if requested. The provision of material is subject to any prejudice to investigation, confidentiality limitations and the rights of third parties. INFO 180 and 181 are significant because they signal ASIC’s mounting endorsement of class actions as a means by which private litigants can obtain compensation for losses that they have suffered, and, in appropriate circumstances, more openness to assist parties who are involved in private litigation by the provision of ASIC’s information and books (this includes provision to plaintiff class action lawyers).