The head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption has called for laws to prosecute corrupt public officials in NSW.

The head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has called for new laws to prosecute corrupt public officials and give greater protections for whistleblowers.

In a submission to a NSW parliamentary inquiry, Megan Latham recommends the NSW Crimes Act be amended to make a provision for the offence of misconduct in office.

“Each week the commission receives complaints involving persons employed by large public sector departments who are alleged to be fully employed by the department concerned, yet also have a direct pecuniary interest in a private business that has a substantial contract with the department,” Ms Latham said.

“There can be no justification for a public official being allowed to benefit from their public official position in this way.

“At present there is no criminal offence in NSW that is specifically directed to this type of conduct; conduct that ordinary, reasonable members of the public would consider criminal in nature.”

ICAC has recommended prosecution for misconduct in office in the past, but has so far had to rely on the common law offence.

Earlier this year it branded former NSW Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid corrupt and recommended criminal charges against him after three investigations into his activities spanning nearly 15 years.

But the Director of Public Prosecutions is yet to lay any charges.

Ms Latham pointed to Queensland, where the Criminal Code provides for three years’ imprisonment for an offence where a public official acquires or holds a private interest in any contracted agreement with their department.

In her August 11 submission to the inquiry Ms Latham revealed the ICAC had found a University of Sydney employee had acted corruptly in the past, but she was unable to prosecute the person because no law covered the offence.

The submission also recommends a provision that protects people from criminal, civil or disciplinary liability where they volunteer information to the committee.

The ICAC already provides limited protection to such people, but only in instances where the ICAC has used its powers to access the information.

“This protection is not useful where persons voluntarily disclosed information to the commission about corrupt conduct of which the commission is unaware and not at that time investigating,” Ms Latham said.

Two ICAC inquiries this year have relegated 10 Liberal MPs to the crossbenches and forced former Newcastle MP Tim Owen and Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell to quit parliament.

A final report on Operation Spicer is expected to be released in January, two months before the NSW general election.