Investigation into allegations of improper conduct in the Office of Living Victoria

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Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass today tabled in Parliament a report titled Investigation into allegations of improper conduct in the Office of Living Victoria.

This investigation was referred to the Ombudsman by IBAC in June 2013, and contained allegations going to the heart of the governance of the Office of Living Victoria (OLV), specifically in relation to its procurement and contract management practices.

The report concluded that there was an ongoing failure by OLV to comply with Victorian Government procurement policies, and conflict of interest was also poorly handled.

“The underlying philosophy appeared to be based on the view of its senior management that it had to ‘crash through’ alleged bureaucratic intransigence and resistance to its reform agenda, and that public service inertia and processes would stymie effective and timely change," Ms Glass said.

“The risks in both of these areas are obvious," she said.

"Government procurement policies exist to protect the public purse; poorly managed conflicts of interest can fundamentally undermine the integrity of public administration.

"They are not optional extras for agencies funded by public money."

In response to the draft report, the CEO of OLV advised that it had legal advice that it was not obliged to comply with Victorian Government Purchasing Board policies.

Other legal advice obtained by the government disagreed with this.

“Even if OLV was not legally obliged to comply with what amounts to best practice for government procurement, for public policy reasons alone, it plainly should have been.

"What is good enough for 289 state entities should have been good enough for OLV.

“It was not part of the Ombudsman’s remit to investigate how well OLV performed its core role to reform the way water services are managed in Victoria.

"This is a matter for the Minister for Water and the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

“OLV failed to demonstrate respect for public sector values and accountability for its use of public funds.

"Its rear guard defence of those practices paved the way for its own demise."

The Victorian Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Victorian Parliament who investigates administrative actions and decisions taken by state government agencies, statutory authorities and local government.

Read the report: Investigation into allegations of improper conduct in the Office of Living Victoria.

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