Organised crime figures are trying to hijack government contracts in a bid to launder money, Australian bureaucrats have been warned.

Calabrian mafia expert Dr Anna Sergi says public contracts are one of the easiest ways to clean dirty money, and bureaucrats need to be prepared.

She will speak at Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s corruption prevention conference in October, and told an IBAC podcast that organised crime was always trying to corrupt government.

“Whenever there is investment, there will be organised crime attempts to hijack that investment,” she said in the audio, released on Monday.

“I do not believe in the distinction between organised crime, especially mafia-organised crime, and corruption. I think they are the same phenomenon.”

Public construction contracts in particularl attract criminals, Dr Sergi said .

“Construction is definitely the one that every jurisdiction everywhere in the world will have problems with when it comes to organised crime,” she added.

The bar for investigating corruption needs to be lowered from “serious” matters to grassroots unethical behaviour, the academic said.

“Infiltration from criminals into the public sector is not a one way street,” Dr Sergi said.

“There are people at every level, in every position, private sector, public sector, who are happy to behave unethically.

“It always starts in my experience with very simple personal transactions, personal bias.”