A Community Leaders Forum began at the Armidale City Bowling Club at 8am on Thursday. The forum was part of NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) visit to the New England region and organised by its rural and regional outreach program which ran between May 6-10.
NSW ICAC commissioner Patricia McDonald SC, one of the two part-time commissioners, said although ICAC was stationed in Sydney corruption was not and could be found anywhere in the state.
"So, it is very important that at least twice a year we try to get out to country regional areas, meet community leaders and tell them about ICAC's work," she said.
"Members of the public and community leaders can play an important role. So much of ICAC's work arises from members of the public contacting us with either a complaint or an issue to be raised.
"Depending on what we're looking at, it might be a piece of an investigative puzzle that then comes into play. It's like the Paul Kelly song, From Little Things Big Things Grow."
Ms McDonald said even though the ICAC had no jurisdiction over private organisations, it did have a wealth of corruption prevention information.
"We've got a public inquiry coming up on lobbying, which will be very interesting. So, this is to let the community know what we do and how they can be involved with us," she said.
NSW Ombudsman Michael Barnes said his department also dealt with all public departments and agencies.
"We form part of what is called 'The Integrity Sector'. Some of us, like ICAC, tend to focus on deliberately wrong conduct, corruption. The Ombudsman focus is more on wrong conduct," he said.
"We're not into the 'gotcha moment', we're into the 'look, this doesn't look as though this has been done as well as it could, how can we fix it up?'
"We do a lot of conciliation. We're in the middle, we don't advocate for the Public Service and we don't fight on behalf of the public; we try to be the honest broker.
Mr Barnes said he was in town to spread the word about his department.
"We're doing Public Interest Disclosure training because when things are going wrong in an agency, the first person to notice is usually someone who works in the agency. But you can imagine, sticking your head up can be daunting," he said.
Commissioner for Integrity of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Lea Drake said many states in Australia had an ICAC that included investigation of police misconduct.
"In NSW we have the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission which investigates police misconduct, which is separate from the ICAC," she said.
"We work with the Police Standards Command (PSC) and we investigate allegations of police misconduct. I think the internal review process for the PSC and the internal review for misconduct matters is superb."
Commissioner Drake said her opinion was based on 23 years experience as senior deputy-president of the Fair Work Commission.
"As you can imagine, I've seen almost every kind of internal review process for misconduct. I don't think I have ever seen a more thorough process than the PSC," she said.
The visit brought anti-corruption initiatives and training and included workshops for state and local government agencies to learn the latest ways to prevent corrupt conduct and activities. It aimed to help raise awareness in the broader community about corruption risks and the roles and functions of the ICAC.