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Budget flags work on integrity watchdog

Preparations are underway for a federal anti-corruption watchdog, with a major staffing boost at a key integrity agency.

The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity will get $15.3 million extra in 2021/22, according to Tuesday’s federal budget.

The funding is earmarked to expand the commission’s jurisdiction until the Commonwealth Integrity Commission is set up.

However, a budget table examining agency staff showed none allocated to the new agency for 2021/22.

Once established, the integrity commission will have oversight of law enforcement agencies that currently fall within existing commission’s jurisdiction.

In preparation, staffing levels at the commission will expand from a base of 45 in 2019/20 to 110 this financial year, and 105 ongoing.

The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity assesses alleged corrupt conduct by federal law enforcement staff, investigates serious and systemic corrupt conduct, supports agencies to conduct investigations and looks at ways to prevent corruption.

The government says laws to enact the Commonwealth Integrity Commission, which will have investigative powers greater than that of a royal commission, have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Labor argues the government has been sitting on its hands and failing to deliver proper accountability.

Meanwhile, independent MP Zali Steggall welcomed the restoration of funding for the auditor-general and addition of 49 staff to help the watchdog oversee government spending.

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