ICAC Inspector considers audit of political donations, Australian Water probes

The Inspector of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, David Levine, may ratchet up the pressure on the watchdog by auditing its high-profile inquiries into political donations and a company linked to senior Labor and Liberal figures.

Mr Levine, QC, a former Supreme Court judge, released a damning report last year into the commission’s failed inquiry into Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC.

The report led to a deterioration in the already-frayed relationship between the inspector and the watchdog. It was criticised in some quarters for failing to give the commission a chance to respond to allegations of “oppressive maladministration” and unlawful behaviour.

Mr Levine told Fairfax Media on Friday that he wrote to the commission on January 15 “requiring the provision to me of … material” in Operations Credo and Spicer.

Those inquiries investigated the links between controversial company Australian Water Holdings and political figures, and the alleged flow of banned donations to some Liberal candidates before the 2011 state election.

Mr Levine has also written to some targets of the inquiries about submissions and directions sent to them in late December about how those inquiries may be affected by a High Court ruling in the battle between the commission and Ms Cunneen.

Targets of the inquiry have been disgruntled about the delay between public hearings in 2014 and the release of findings, which have been held up by a series of court challenges.

Asked if he would consider that delay in a potential audit, Mr Levine said: “There has been delay and explanations for it given. Nonetheless delay which can exacerbate reputational damage is a factor I always bear in mind.”

But he added that “no decision to conduct an audit either alone or as a precursor to an investigation has been made” and “anything … is possible”.

ICAC Commissioner Megan Latham is expected to face a parliamentary hearing in February about Mr Levine’s report on the Cunneen inquiry.

Mr Levine was already tasked with preparing a report on the commission’s conduct in past and current inquiries, and any proposed changes to its powers. This will also be considered by Parliament’s committee on the watchdog.

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