Qld integrity commission’s laptop wiped

Marty Silk |

Queensland’s outgoing integrity commissioner says a laptop was controversially seized from her office by the peak public service agency and later wiped without her “knowledge or consent”.

Dr Nikola Stepanov, who maintains the state’s register of lobbyists and advises politicians confidentially on integrity matters, tendered her resignation last week midway through a three-year term.

Her decision comes as the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission reportedly probes her complaint that the Public Service Commission allegedly seized a laptop from her office.

“The contents were subsequently deleted without my knowledge or consent,” Dr Stepanov told the Australian on Tuesday.

Liberal National Party integrity spokeswoman Fiona Simpson said the allegations were serious and the government needed to explain exactly what happened.

“What was on the laptop,” Ms Simpson said in a statement on Tuesday.

“What did the Premier stand to gain when it was wiped?

“This is serious.”

The PSC also seized other Integrity Commission mobile phones and laptops, deleted records from those devices, and altered security permissions and access to the commission’s offices, News Corp reported in September 2021.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk dismissed parts of that report as “speculation” at the time, but referred it to the CCC.

She has since refused to comment further before the matter is finalised by the corruption watchdog.

Ms Palaszczuk said on Monday that Dr Stepanov was stepping down to take another position and would stay in her role until July.

“People change jobs all the time … I don’t think it’s a problem at all, we’ll advertise and have a new integrity commissioner,” she said.

Dr Stepanov revealed the number of Integrity Commission staff had been cut from four to one, in her 2020-21 annual report released in October.

However, Ms Palaszczuk insisted that the integrity commission was “staffed appropriately” after extra personnel had been provided.

The commissioner also wrote in her October report that she was “very concerned” about illegal lobbying after a surge in recorded contacts between the state Labor government and lobbyists.

Dr Stepanov said complaints about lobbying and requests for advice about lobbying were on the rise in Queensland.

There were 38 requests for advice and 988 contacts recorded between lobbyists and government ministers, MPs, public servants, councillors or local government staff in 2020/21, she wrote.

That compares with an average of 239 contacts a year between January 2013 and June 2020.

Dr Stepanov said there were 46 discrepancies in the records held by chief executives of state government departments and lobbyists.

There were another 57 discrepancies between the records held by chief executives of local governments and the lobbyists’ register.

Almost all related to lobbyists failing to record contacts with people on the government register, Dr Stepanov said.