TASMANIA'S fledging Integrity Commission has enough muscle for now, according to its new chief executive.
A month into the role, Diane Merryfull has rejected claims that the state's watchdog is a toothless tiger.
She said the commission, set up two years ago, was already using strong coercive powers. That's why Ms Merryfull is happy to wait for a parliamentary review of its operations due next year.
``They can reflect on our operations over three years and decide what to recommend to Parliament and government as to whether or not we need more powers,'' she said.
``I'm focused on using the powers we've got to their extent to do the job that we've been asked to do.''
With the state government rapidly tightening its belt, the commission must cut $83,000 from its $3.2 million budget this financial year.
Some have questioned the need for a commission at all. The chief executive says it is a necessity, not a luxury, because it's the only voice for integrity across the sector and the only oversight of Tasmania Police.
``Across all jurisdictions there is a movement towards having integrity bodies or accountability bodies, and there's a reason for that: to put integrity and ethics at the centre of public life and at the centre of the public's values. I don't think that's something Tasmania wants to be without.''
Complaints have dropped off after an initial flurry when the commission began operating on October 1, 2010. That included corruption claims dating back decades.
Last financial year the commission dealt with 108 complaints, compared with 131 in 2010-11.
Ms Merryfull is at pains to say the number of complaints is no indication of how effective the commission is.
During 2011-12, the commission trained 440 state sector employees, 300 local government staff and 130 chief executives.
It also held information sessions for MPs, police and councillors.
``I'd like to make sure the public knows the full range of what we're doing,'' she said.
``Obviously the investigations get a lot of attention and exercise people's interest, but there's a lot of other work we're doing with agencies . . . that may not be so visible to the general public but which all contributes to a strong and ethically sound public sector.''
Since April the commission has been using a new case management system that should make it easier to identify systemic problems.
For now it is too early to pinpoint any trends. Ms Merryfull said the commission's 17 staff were focused on handling each complaint on its merits.
Not even the court action lodged by the commission's former chief executive Barbara Etter - who left 15 months into an $865,000 five-year contract - appears a distraction.
``I don't want to comment on that except to say the commission is more than one person, and it's doing its job,'' Ms Merryfull said.