Departure comes after parliamentary committee found he failed to ensure watchdog ‘acted independently and impartially’
The head of Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission, Alan MacSporran, has resigned seven weeks after a parliamentary committee found he failed in his duty to ensure the watchdog “acted independently and impartially”.
Criticisms of the CCC and its priorities have increased in recent months following a series of failed prosecutions. The Queensland government had been considering whether to push ahead with a commission of inquiry into the organisation.
Other concerns about the CCC include the watchdog’s decision-making and the extent to which it focuses on high-level criminal investigations rather than institutional corruption.
In December, the parliamentary crime and corruption committee (PCCC) recommended a commission of inquiry – with the powers of a royal commission – into the CCC following the failed prosecution of eight Logan city councillors last year.
The councillors were charged with fraud in 2019 relating to former council chief executive Sharon Kelsey’s dismissal. The charges were discontinued in a Brisbane court last year.
The parliamentary committee investigating the Logan affair stopped short of calling for MacSporran’s resignation – though it was proposed by counsel assisting during the committee hearings. The committee found the commission breached its duty to remain independent and impartial.
It also found MacSporran’s failures to ensure the CCC acted impartially and independently were “serious” and reflected “poorly” on the commission.
In a surprise statement on Tuesday, MacSporran said he would resign as the CCC chair.
“Many people have urged me to continue in this important role, despite the recent finding contained in the report of the parliamentary crime and corruption committee,” he said.
“However, I find myself in a position where, despite a career spanning in excess of 40 years, where my honesty and integrity have never been questioned, it is clear to me that the relationship between myself and the PCCC has broken down irretrievably. This saddens me deeply.
“The Queensland community rightly expects the CCC to do its statutory job, and that ultimately involves making very complex, tough and independent decisions as an investigative agency. As chairperson, I was willing to make, and support my staff making, those independent decisions.”
MacSporran’s decision to quit comes just days after the Queensland integrity commissioner, Nicola Stepanov, resigned over concerns about interference with her office by the public services commission.
The CCC suffered another embarrassment last week after charges of misconduct in public office against the former Moreton Bay mayor Allan Sutherland were dropped by prosecutors without him being committed for trial. Sutherland had denied any wrongdoing and claimed outside court the CCC was “out of control”.
The failed prosecutions have emboldened critics of the CCC and damaged public faith in an institution charged with protecting the Fitzgerald Inquiry’s legacy in Queensland.
In recent years, calls have increased for the CCC’s major crime and corruption functions to be separated. The watchdog investigates very few of the corruption complaints it receives – in more than 95% of cases it refers these back to various government departments.
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The police union and civil liberties campaigners have said the state needs a corruption watchdog that does not also investigate major and organised crime.
The clerk of the Queensland parliament, Neil Laurie, said last year the CCC must “stop the drift” towards serious crime investigations and away from corruption matters.
Questions have also been raised about the CCC’s apparent priorities. Last year, it finalised a two-year investigation into Queensland police hiring practices which it found discriminated against men.
The investigation was criticised by the Queensland human rights commissioner, Scott McDougall, who said the finding appeared to be based on an “incorrect” understanding of discrimination law, and that the CCC had in the process “(undermined) the legitimacy and lawfulness of equal opportunity measures”.