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Two more South Australian MPs referred by ICAC to prosecutor

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Two more South Australian MPs have been referred by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption to the Director of Public Prosecutions over potential misuse of the Country Members Accommodation Allowance.

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In a statement issued this afternoon, Commissioner Ann Vanstone said she had briefed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) about accusations relating to one MP in May this year.

She said she provided a briefing about a second MP “more recently” and she understood that the DPP “continues to consider both these matters”.

Vanstone did not identify either MP or their party.

“It is for the Director to determine whether there will be a prosecution,” she said.

“No other Members are now subject to active investigation by my officers in relation to the Country Members Accommodation Allowance.

“Members of the public are advised to keep an open mind about the conduct under consideration, until all the appropriate processes are concluded.

“At this stage these are only accusations.”

Former Liberal backbencher Fraser Ellis faces 23 deception charges related to the country members accommodation allowance. 

Prosecutors will allege Ellis made fraudulent claims for the allowance, totalling more than $18,000, between May 13, 2018 and June 12, 2020.

The Member for Narungga has vowed to defend the charges, with the court case ongoing.

Last year the ICAC cleared nine country MPs, including senior Liberals Tim Whestone, Adrian Pederick and Stephan Knoll, of wrongdoing.

Others to have been cleared include ministers David Basham and Dan van Holst Pellekaan, Liberal backbenchers Nick McBride and Peter Treloar, Labor’s Eddie Hughes and independent Geoff Brock.

Vanstone said she issued her statement this afternoon “because the public already has some knowledge of these investigations, and it is in their interests that I allay any concern that they have not been thoroughly and efficiently investigated”.

“I also make it now because once the recent amending Act passes into law I will not be in a position to advise the public of the outcome of these investigations, or any other Independent Commission Against Corruption investigations, except in extremely narrow circumstances,” she said.

It comes after both houses of state parliament last week swiftly and unanimously passed a bill introduced by SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo to clip ICAC’s wings, with the office now only given jurisdiction to investigate matters of serious and systemic corruption.

Under the reforms – which passed both houses in less than 24 hours – misconduct and maladministration will be restricted to the State Ombudsman, with the Office of Public Integrity moved out of the ICAC’s jurisdiction.

The laws, which were prompted by recommendations from a separate parliamentary committee chaired by Pangallo, also establish an independent Office of the Inspector to replace the current ICAC Reviewer – with “enhanced powers of review and oversight of ICAC”.

Vanstone has previously criticised the laws, saying they will “severely narrow ICAC’s powers [placing] politicians out of reach”.

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