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ATO refuses internal corruption probe. Anti-Corruption Commission needed

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

This week ex-Deputy ATO Commissioner Michael Cranston arrived at court for the start of his trial for allegedly using his office with the intention of dishonestly obtaining a benefit for his son.  Cranston was the top tax official in charge of high-wealth individuals. His trial forms a backdrop to questions about the integrity of the Australian Taxation Office.

We’ve raised questions as to whether the ATO suffers from internal corruption. In September last year we released a major report on a special deal handed to high-wealth individuals in 2013. The deal was organised by then-Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston, with a loss of tax revenue estimated as high as $4.3 billion. There are calls for a high level inquiry.

We’ve tried to work ‘inside the system’ for an inquiry to occur.
  • First, we wrote to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. This Federal Authority is supposed to hunt for potential corruption in the Federal Public Service. The Commission wrote back to us saying they don’t have the power to investigate the ATO. They suggested we contact the ATO’s internal anti-corruption unit.
  • On 5 November last year we lodged a request with the ATO’s internal fraud unit to conduct an investigation.
For the first time, we can now reveal the response we received on 20 December 2018. The response was from the Director of the Fraud Prevention & Internal Investigations, ATO Corporate and reads as follows:
“It is acknowledged that these issues have been aired with the ATO on previous occasions and it is understood the ATO has provided a response to yourself in relation to these matters.
On this basis, the FPII has concluded that it will not be investigating these matters that have been the subject of previous correspondence with your organisation and yourself personally.”
We replied the same day:
“These matters have NOT been aired between ourselves and the ATO and they have NOT provided a response in any form…. These matters cannot be dismissed lightly.”
Our conclusion is that the ATO cannot be trusted to conduct a proper, or even any, inquiry into serious matters of potential corruption within the organization. This is an extraordinary situation that cannot continue.

Fortunately, the Federal Government has announced that a new Commonwealth Integrity Commission will be established. This will be able to investigate potential corruption within the ATO. We urge that this new Commission be established quickly. We will refer our report on the ATO to the Commission as soon as it is established.

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