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Integrity chief warns she risks being denied natural justice

Queensland Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov says any allegations against her must be investigated quickly and independently so she isn’t denied “natural justice”.

Feb 25, 2022, updated Feb 25, 2022
Former Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov is heading to Toowoomba. Picture: AAP

Former Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov is heading to Toowoomba. Picture: AAP

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk referred Dr Stepanov to a parliamentary committee over old bullying and misconduct claims last year.

The referral came two weeks after the lobbying watchdog formally complained that a laptop had been taken from her office by senior public servants and wiped without her permission.

The Economics and Governance Committee remains silent, but the Liberal National Party has called for it to publish its response to the premier’s referral, with Stepanov having no objections to that.

The commissioner says she still doesn’t even know what allegations have been made against her, so she’s unable to respond or defend herself.

Stepanov has called for any investigation to be quick and independent, and for the results to be publicly released.

“In the normal course of events, natural justice requires that the subject of a complaint be given enough information so that they can understand and respond to a complaint made against them,” she said in a statement on Friday.

“There is also a legal maxim that says, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.

“It is my sincere desire that any allegations that have been made against me be investigated fully, independently, and expeditiously; and that the outcome of any such investigation be made public as soon as possible.”

It’s understood that the committee is still seeking legal advice about whether the documents relating to a referral against Stepanov can be released.

Committee deputy chair and Liberal National Party MP Ray Stevens moved a motion on Monday to release the material, but the outcome of that motion is unclear due to confidentiality rules.

Stepanov, who finishes in her role in July, has complained of interference in her office and has called for a formal Commission of Inquiry into government integrity.

The Crime and Corruption Commission is also probing her allegation that a laptop was taken from her office and wiped without permission.

An unnamed Queen’s Counsel is also probing former state archivist Mike Summerell’s allegations of interference in his role and that his annual reports were altered, potentially leading to parliament being misled.

The premier has also appointed Professor Peter Coaldrake to review overall government integrity, but his probe won’t hear individual complaints.

Stepanov and Mr Summerell said the review would be pointless if it didn’t hear complaints with the Integrity Commissioner on Monday calling for a full-blown Commission of Inquiry into the Palaszczuk government’s integrity.

Another three reviews are also looking at whether the CCC, the Integrity Commissioner and the Office of the Independent Assessor, the local government watchdog, are fit for purpose.

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