SafeWork SA has come under fire with confirmation of an evaluation into its practices, policies and procedures following several complaints against its integrity over the last five years.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption, Bruce Lander QC released a public statement on Thursday, determining an evaluation would be undertaken relating to the regulatory arm of SafeWork SA since September, 2013.
He said the evaluation would be done by way of public inquiry.
“Since my office commenced in September 2013, the Office for Public Integrity has received a number of complaints and reports about SafeWork SA,” he said.
“Each complaint and report has been dealt with on its merits. Some resulted in no further action being taken.
“Others resulted in investigations undertaken by me (including the investigation I announced last week), or by the Chief Executive of the Attorney-General’s Department, on referral from me.”
Adelene Leong died on a Royal Show ride in Adelaide on September 12, 2014. (Supplied by SA Police)
The safety watchdog most recently came under fire earlier this month after it dropped charges over a fatal show ride accident that claimed the life of a young girl.
Adelene Leong, 8, was on holidays from Malaysia when she was thrown from the Airmaxx 360 ride at the Royal Adelaide Show in September 2014. She later died in hospital.
The safety company that inspected the ride, Safe is Safe Pty Ltd, and its boss Hamish Munro, were being prosecuted by SafeWork SA over the incident.
However, SafeWork SA dropped the case after announcing it had withdrawn the charges.
Mr Lander said the evaluation announced today followed a number of complaints against SafeWork SA and said he believed the investigation was in the public’s interest.
“The nature of those complaints and reports, together with other information I have received in respect of SafeWork SA, has led me to the view that an evaluation of its regulatory functions is in the public interest,” he said.
“The purpose of the evaluation will be to consider what, if any, improvements can be made to minimise the potential for corruption, misconduct or maladministration to occur within the agency.”
Mr Lander said the ICAC Act allowed for a public inquiry and he hoped the public would be confident enough to come forward.
“It is critical that those who are regulated by SafeWork SA, as well as the public, have confidence in the way in which the agency carries out its functions,” he said.
“Carrying out such an evaluation in public allows both weaknesses and strengths of the agency to be highlighted and opportunities for improvement to be debated openly.
“Members of the public can be made aware of the evaluation, its scope and progress and may be more willing to come forward with information relevant to the evaluation.
“Finally, people will be able to judge for themselves whether the content of my final report is appropriate in light of the evidence and submissions received.”
SafeWork SA welcomes evaluation
Mr Lander made clear that the evaluation was into practices, policies and procedures, not an investigation into any individual conduct.
He said once the scope of the evaluation was established, he would make further information public, including a call for submissions and a timeframe.
SafeWork SA released a statement in response on Thursday morning, welcoming the evaluation.
SafeWork SA Executive Director Martyn Campbell said the evaluation would build upon the existing reform program within SafeWork SA to improve and accelerate its compliance, investigatory and prosecutorial functions.
“Since I started in this role, my priority has been to improve how we investigate and prosecute work health and safety breaches,” he said.
“Significant reforms are already underway, and this evaluation will give us the opportunity to evaluate the progress that has been made to date and identify where more work needs to be done.”