The former Queensland deputy premier and treasurer Jackie Trad has been cleared by the state’s corruption watchdog after a six-month integrity investigation that prompted her resignation from cabinet in May.
The Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission released a 178-page report on Thursday that found there was “no prima facie case” that Trad had committed a criminal offence or was “motivated by dishonest or corrupt intent”.
The investigation centred on the recruitment process for the principal of a new high school in Trad’s South Brisbane electorate.
The report detailed that an independent panel chose a preferred candidate for the principal’s position, and subsequently a senior public servant arranged for the candidate to have a “meet and greet” with Trad.
Soon after, the job was re-advertised as a more senior “executive principal” position. A different candidate was appointed.
“Whilst the [former] deputy premier did not intend to influence decision-making in relation to the … principal position, the manner in which the Department of Education, and specifically a deputy director-general, approached the situation meant it had that result,” the CCC found.
“The decision to involve the deputy premier in the recruitment process was ill-advised.
“The nature of her involvement in Department of Education decision-making created a corruption risk.”
It is unlikely Trad will seek an immediate return to cabinet, having previously told Guardian Australia she stood down to avoid becoming a distraction to the government amid its response to the coronavirus outbreak and with an election looming.
Since standing down, Trad has devoted her time to campaigning in her marginal seat of South Brisbane, which is broadly considered at serious risk of falling to the Greens.
In a statement, Trad said she had been “totally cleared”. She said the Liberal National Party, which initially referred the matter to the CCC, had turned it into a “political witch-hunt”.
“What I have said all along has been found to be true and accurate,” Trad said.
“This has been an ongoing smear campaign that has had a detrimental impact on myself, my family and sadly, on the South Brisbane community.
“More importantly, this mud-slinging was happening at a time when I was focussed on keeping Queenslanders in jobs, and delivering a plan for economic recovery for our state as the treasurer.
“Since my election in 2012 the LNP has thrown everything at me, from racial slurs to vicious smear campaigns, all unfounded, and all in vain.”
The CCC chairman, Alan MacSporran, said the commission discovered “some very worrying and disappointing practices during this investigation”.
This included the “manufacturing of [a] new enrolment figure” that justified advertising the role at executive principal level, and the deletion of an email request by a public servant to exaggerate the prospective student numbers at the school.
“The CCC found that department officers and some selection panel members had very poor or no records of key decisions, we recovered an email that was the subject of an instruction to delete a public record, a recruitment process was interfered with by people not on the selection panel, a candidate was misled by department officers and false information was published or used to make decisions,” MacSporran said.
“The report outlines how some department officers thought it was a good idea or were aware of the idea to ‘test’ a candidate during a meeting with the former deputy premier, even though the selection panel had made a decision.
“The former deputy premier did not instigate that meeting and was not a member of the selection panel, nor was a meeting part of the original recruitment process, so in the CCC’s view the meeting to ‘test’ the candidate was entirely inappropriate.
“All Queensland public servants and elected officials should read this report to see how a straightforward recruitment process went off the rails. This type of conduct should never occur again.”