What’s behind the Victorian anti-corruption agency’s leak complaints?

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A Victorian parliamentary committee investigating the welfare of witnesses to anti-corruption agencies has been accused of leaking confidential correspondence and compromising ongoing investigations.

This comes after the committee’s then chair, Labor MP Harriet Shing, in May cut the live broadcast of a public hearing when the Prime Minister, Daniel Andrews, was mentioned.

Here is what we know about the Integrity and Supervisory Committee’s latest request.

What exactly is the integrity and supervision committee?

The Integrity and Oversight Committee is responsible for monitoring and reviewing the performance of the state’s anti-corruption bodies – including the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (Ibac) and the Victorian Ombudsman.

The committee consists of seven MPs – four from Labour, two Liberals and one crossbencher.

It is chaired by a Labor MP, currently Gary Maas, who took over from Shing when she was recently promoted to Cabinet.

In February 2022, the committee announced that it would investigate witness welfare as part of its annual review of the agencies. The investigation was prompted by the suspected suicide of former Casey mayor Amanda Stapledon, which was investigated as part of Ibac’s Operation Sandon.

Related: Victorian Opposition Leader loses second senior staff in eight days

Why does Operation Sandon sound familiar?

Operation Sandon is a long-running investigation into allegations of corrupt behavior involving councilors and property developers in the City of Casey in Melbourne’s south-east.

It ran weeks of public hearings in 2019 and 2020 and has grown to engulf Labor MPs, ministers and premiers – the Australian revealed earlier this year that Andrews was interviewed by Ibac privately because of his links to property developer John Woodman.

Woodman has meanwhile launched a High Court bid to stop Ibac from submitting its final report.

What has happened during the parliamentary inquiry?

The inquiry has made headlines several times this year.

In May, the ombudsman, Deborah Glass, was prevented from answering questions put by Liberal MPs on the committee about Labour’s red shirt saga. Shing had said this was because it was “the subject of an unresolved investigation by another integrity agency”.

At an earlier hearing that month, Shing demanded committee administrators “cut the food” when Ibac commissioner Robert Redlich was asked why Andrews was being investigated in private as part of the watchdog’s Operation Watts and Operation Sandon investigations.

What did Ibac have to say?

Ibac wrote to the committee to express “serious concerns” about the inquiry and what it says is a “significant departure from established principles of procedural fairness”.

In its five-page submission dated July 15, the watchdog claims that several confidential communications received by the committee were leaked to the media.

“Some of these leaks apparently relate to confidential submissions containing negative allegations and comments about Ibac’s conduct with respect to ongoing investigations and specific witnesses,” the filing said.

“Despite Ibac’s repeated requests for an opportunity to be heard on the matters raised in these submissions, the Committee has refused to allow Ibac this opportunity, whether in a public or private forum.”

The filings also led to “widespread” and “inaccurate” media reporting about its welfare management practices to which it was unable to respond, Ibac’s submission said.

“To avoid irreversible damage as a result of the leaked submissions, a private hearing should be conducted to examine the issues raised in these submissions, which will not in any way prejudice any ongoing investigation,” Ibac said.

Related: Victorian MPs called for integrity reforms to be implemented ahead of the state election after scathing Ibac findings

What was the committee’s response?

Maas said the “language of Ibac’s submission” demonstrated why the investigation was necessary.

“The committee’s work is critically important because no agency is beyond scrutiny, particularly in matters relating to the welfare of Victorians,” he said late on Tuesday.

Liberal MP Brad Rowswell, the committee’s vice-chairman, accused Maas on Wednesday of breaking convention by not consulting him before issuing his statement.

He said Ibac had the right to express a view and accused Maas of undermining the submission.

Where are you going from here?

The committee is still working on its report on witness welfare. It was to be presented in June.

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