Wednesday, 26 March 2008

NSW Govt 'trying to muzzle DPP'

The New South Wales Government is fighting off accusations it is interfering with the independence of the state prosecutor by appointing a manager to his office.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Nicholas Cowdery, has poured scorn on the Iemma Government over law and order issues and resources for his office.

His complaints last year that planned funding cuts would force him to refer some cases to the police prompted an investigation by Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat.

Mr Achterstraat has found the Office of the DPP needs a new senior manager to steer its budget and keep it accountable.

"It's critical for the director to focus on the prosecutorial role of the office, rather than necessarily spend time involved in managing people and resources," he said.

He says the position is needed to ensure wise spending and introduce better management and accountability systems.

Mr Achterstraat's report says it is critical that the executive director reports to the DPP but Mr Hatzistergos wants to take it further.

"I also believe it's important that it reports to myself, particularly in the circumstances where there has been opposition in the past to the creation of this position and particularly in the circumstances where I think it's important that the recommendations of the Auditor-General be implemented without resistance," he said.

'Payback time'

Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell says it is an attempt to rein in a powerful and independent critic.

"It's about trying to muzzle the current director..." he said.

"It's further evidence that this is all about Nick Cowdery. It's all about interfering with the independence of the prosecutions. It's not about the public interest."

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon agrees it is "payback time" for the DPP.

Mr Cowdery was not willing to speak out today. In his official response contained in the report, he agrees with most of the recommendations but takes issue with a few.

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