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Marshall calls on Auditor-General to release ICAC legal advice

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Opposition Leader Steven Marshall has formally called on the Auditor-General to release legal advice he received about a possible “overlap” of his powers with the state’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption in relation to the new Festival Plaza build.

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Auditor-General Andrew Richardson told an estimates hearing last week that his audit of the project had been delayed, in part because of “concern” about where his powers ended “and where the commissioner’s powers begin”.

“My obligation is to report on the sufficiency of controls that are in place in the public sector and the commissioner can investigate misconduct and maladministration, but there is a reasonable amount of overlap in how you could define those two terms,” Richardson told parliament at the time.

“We wanted to get clarity about that [which] ended up with me seeking counsel on that, getting legal advice, and that took quite a long time.”

Premier Jay Weatherill then stepped in to bat away Opposition questions about “the nature of the independent legal advice sought by the Auditor-General with regard to this project”, telling Marshall: “We are not revealing legal advice.”

Weatherill was also coy about whether the Auditor-General’s evidence indicated that there was an ICAC investigation into the Festival Plaza project, saying: “That is not an appropriate question to ask or answer.”

But Marshall has now written directly to the Auditor-General, asking him to make the legal advice public.

In a letter obtained by InDaily the Liberal leader writes: “With all due respect to the Premier, I understand from what you said that this is not the Premier’s legal opinion, but one you sought.”

He also notes that under the Public and Finance Act, “the Auditor-General is not subject to the direction of any person as to the manner in which functions are carried out or powers are exercised”.

“Accordingly, I would appreciate it if you would consider the release of the legal advice in question,” Marshall writes.

“As the Auditor-General and the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption have important reporting obligations to the Parliament, I believe it is vital for the Parliament to be assured that there is clarity about your respective powers.”

It’s understood the letter, dated last Friday, was sent early this week. InDaily has sought a response from the Auditor-General’s office.

ICAC commissioner Bruce Lander declined to comment.

Relations between the Government and the ICAC have been strained lately amid a standoff about the nature of Lander’s investigation into the Oakden Aged Mental Health Care facility and Labor’s refusal to countenance public hearings for such inquiries.

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