In its first eight months of operation, the Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner has launched investigations into two separate complaints about misconduct in the Victorian racing industry.

The organisation’s annual report reveals that the complaints involve allegations of misconduct by racing officials and “improper relationships” between members of one racing code.

The office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner was established on March 1 this year with the task of ensuring the thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing industries are corruption free.

The commissioner, Sal Perna, has wide-ranging investigative powers. But under the body’s rules, the details of his inquiries remain confidential, as he explained recently:

“Allegations made to the commissioner’s office are treated confidentially and anonymity is guaranteed.  Similarly, details of allegations are also maintained in confidence unless determined to be a matter of public interest.”

The annual report explains that the two complaints are still being investigated, while a third investigation was resolved quickly.

The first two complaints are described as:

Allegations of misconduct and improper relationships by racing officials from one of the codes

and

Allegations of misconduct by racing officials from another of the racing codes.

The third matter relates to:

The failure of a Racing Appeals and Disciplinary board to accept a notice of appeal within the prescribed limits.

RAD boards are independent tribunals set up to hear appeals from decisions by racing stewards and to also hear breaches of serious offences under the rules of racing.

Although the proceedings of RAD boards are made public, the commissioner opted not to reveal which case had been the subject of the complaint. In his report, he explains that his office intervened and the RAD board reconsidered its position by allowing the appeal to proceed.

The Brumby Government established the Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner after a report by Judge Gordon Lewis in 2008 identified several areas of the racing industry in need of reform. He identified new ways of reducing criminal activity and procedures for drug testing animals and jockeys.

One of Lewis’s 63 recommendations was the introduction of a standalone body with independent statutory powers to maintain the integrity of Victoria’s three codes of racing.

The Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner was created as a result.

Sal Perna is a former police inspector and head of security for Telstra. He is credited with helping reduce corruption in tennis. When he was appointed in February he said he was excited about taking on the job this year, because it marks the 150th anniversary of the Melbourne Cup.

Peter Fray

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