The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has opted not to investigate six public officials referred by the robodebt royal commission. 

The decision, disclosed last week, follows the NACC's assessment of the material provided by the royal commission, including its final report and a confidential chapter.

The NACC noted that five of the six officials were also referred to the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) for investigation. 

Despite the NACC's awareness of the significant impact of the robodebt scheme on individuals and the public, and the seniority of the officials involved, it concluded that the conduct had been thoroughly examined by the royal commission. 

“After close consideration of the evidence available to the Royal Commission, the Commission has concluded that it is unlikely it would obtain significant new evidence,” the NACC said in a statement. 

Initiating a separate corruption investigation was deemed undesirable, with the NACC citing risks of inconsistent outcomes and the oppression of repeated investigations.

The NACC said that duplicating the work of the royal commission and the APSC would not serve the public interest. 

The royal commission had investigatory powers, while the APSC could enforce remedial actions. The NACC itself could make findings of corrupt conduct but lacked the authority to impose sanctions or offer redress to the victims of the robodebt scheme.

“An investigation by the Commission would not provide any individual remedy or redress for the recipients of government payments or their families who suffered due to the Robodebt Scheme,” it said. 

In making its decision, the NACC also delegated the final call to a Deputy Commissioner to avoid any potential conflict of interest. 

While the NACC will not pursue corruption investigations, it says it is committed to addressing integrity issues through its corruption prevention and education functions.

The NACC's decision has drawn angry reactions from victims and whistleblowers, with some saying the new commission has shown itself to be weak in its first real test, while others fear the decision means accountability is only moving further away.

The Robodebt Royal Commission's final report, delivered by Commissioner Catherine Holmes, labelled the scheme as “crude and cruel”, and highlighted severe criticisms of Coalition ministers and bureaucrats. 

The report found that the then social services minister Scott Morrison misled the cabinet and that Kathryn Campbell, former secretary of the human services department, did nothing substantial when informed about the scheme's illegality.

Referrals “for civil action or criminal prosecution” were contained in a sealed chapter, obscuring the legal consequences for Coalition ministers and bureaucrats.

The Australian Public Service Commission is continuing its investigation into 16 public servants' involvement in the scheme, with outcomes expected soon.