Integrity Commission

Integrity Matters - Issue 6

From the Chief Executive Officer

Richard Bingham, Chief Executive Officer

Richard Bingham

I’m delighted to be back in Tasmania, and to have taken up the position as CEO of the Integrity Commission.

I’ve spent the past three years as Queensland Integrity Commissioner, and the five years before that as South Australia’s Ombudsman. I’ve learned different things in different places, but one constant is the central importance of integrity issues to government today.

I’m looking forward to catching up with State and local government colleagues, and meeting many of you at forthcoming Ethical Reference Group meetings, to share some thoughts about how we can all contribute to that aim.

In the meantime, I’d like to place on record my appreciation for the fine work done by Michael Easton and the team in the period pending my appointment.

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Upcoming workshop - Practical Ethics for Managers in the Public Sector

The Integrity Commission will facilitate its first Practical Ethics for Managers in the Public Sector workshop on Tuesday 15 August.  The training, which is a full day workshop, will be an opportunity for public sector managers and team leaders to discuss ethical issues they face in their role and to develop strategies for contributing to an ethical culture in their organisation. The workshop is relevant to public sector managers and team leaders – from state and local government to government businesses.

This new workshop has been developed in recognition of the key role that managers, particularly middle managers, play in building an ethical culture.  It will take a real world perspective on the pressures that managers face and the difficult decisions that emerge day-to-day.  The session aims to provide practical guidance, tools and support to assist managers perform in their role, addressing ethical dilemmas with greater confidence and being a positive role model and support for team members.

Throughout the session, we’ll be using real-life case-studies, scenarios and group discussion to explore the issues; together with practical content, tips and tools that participants can take and apply. Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on ethical issues from their own experience as an employee and manager.  They will also benefit from sharing and support across the group.

Following the session, participants should be able to:

  1. apply effective ethical decision making to issues they face at work
  2. employ the attributes and behaviours of an ethical manager
  3. effectively deal with the ethical dilemmas of managing ‘in the middle’
  4. assist their team members to deal with ethical issues in their work

The workshop is appropriate for both new and experienced managers and team leaders in the public sector. The Commission intends to hold these workshops twice a year.

For further information or to register, contact the Tasmanian Training Consortium.

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Educating through release of investigation reports

The public release of investigation reports, such as the recent one dealing with allegations of nepotism by senior TasTAFE executives, is an important way to help raise public sector awareness of misconduct risks.

The Commission maintains a balance between transparency and accountability. Much of its investigative work is conducted in private to protect the integrity of an investigation and to preserve the rights, reputation and privacy of those involved in investigations.

However, educational benefit is one of the key considerations in determining whether or not investigation outcomes are publicly released. Release of reports can raise awareness of the nature of public sector misconduct and support accountability, leading to outcomes such as improved public sector practices, strengthening of organisational culture in relation to responsible business conduct, or formal complaints relating to similar misconduct in other organisations.

In arriving at a decision about whether or not to report publicly, the Commission takes into account the privacy, personal welfare and reputational concerns of any public officer involved in a matter, and whether or not these outweigh the public interest.

Its other public interest criteria include:

  • the nature and seriousness of the alleged misconduct
  • whether the alleged misconduct is of significant public concern
  • seniority of the people investigated
  • whether  public release has the potential to encourage public authorities to undertake reform, and
  • whether the allegations are already in the public domain.

In the course of its work, the Commission resolves many matters by working directly with public authorities to improve policies, procedures and practices. However, as indicated recently, where there are significant or systemic issues then public reporting makes an essential contribution to the Commission’s role in improving the standard of public sector conduct and ethics.

The benefits go beyond the public sector, helping to support community trust in the accountability of public authorities.

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Community Perceptions Survey: Public Sector Accountability on the Rise

We successfully completed the fourth round of this research through an independent research company which interviewed 600 Tasmanian adults by telephone in June. The first survey was conducted in 2011.

Key results from this year’s survey were:

  • Tasmanians reported an increase in accountability in the public sector since establishment of the Integrity Commission in 2010. The majority of those surveyed (59%) indicated that the Commission had increased the level of accountability across the public sector;
  • an increase in those who reported that there was now more attention on ethical behaviour in the public sector – 72%, compared with 61% in the last survey conducted in 2015;
  • almost all those surveyed around the State (93%) agreed that Tasmania needs an Integrity Commission and a greater number were aware of the Commission’s role in relation to the honesty and integrity of the public sector (82% compared with 73% in 2015);
  • the majority of respondents (89%) had the view that Tasmania’s public sector was as vulnerable to unethical behaviour as the public sector elsewhere in Australia and that there would always be some dishonesty, unethical behaviour and corruption in Tasmania (86%). However, most respondents (84%) were of the view that the majority of people in Tasmania’s public sector were honest.
  • concerningly around two thirds of respondents (65%) agreed that people who complain about corruption or unethical behaviour are likely to suffer because of complaining;
  • around one half of respondents (49%) do not have confidence that people in the Tasmanian public sector will be caught doing something dishonest or unethical; and finally
  • almost a quarter of respondents (23%) did not have confidence that the Tasmanian public sector would deal with corruption or unethical behaviour when reported.

What do the results mean for your organisation?

If we are to improve the confidence of the community, it is imperative for Tasmanian public sector organisations to have comprehensive policies and programs which support an ethical framework. Some of the key things you can do in your organisation are:

  • provide ongoing training or awareness raising for all staff, including at induction. This includes:
    • providing education on codes of conduct, ethical risks and issues, polices, vision or mission statements, service charter and Public Interest Disclosure (PID);
  • embed an appropriate complaints management process in your organisation. This includes:
    • ensuring staff know how and to whom they should report their concerns;
    • promoting it, educating staff and contractors, and ensuring easy access to it;
    • managing misconduct consistently with established policies and procedures; and
    • providing training and guidance to staff who undertake investigations.
  • Establish Public Interest Disclosure (PID) procedures and provide training for staff. This includes:
    • promoting it, educating staff and contractors, and providing easy access to it; and
    • review the Model Procedures developed by the Ombudsman, as they can be of assistance.

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New fact sheets available

The Commission has recently developed two new two fact sheets.

The first, Information for Members of Parliament and Ministers, covers matters such as:

  • raising matters with the Commission
  • what happens to a complaint?
  • the Commission’s jurisdiction, and
  • when might the Commission contact a Minister or the Premier?

The second fact sheet, Information for Lawyers, includes:

  • right to representation
  • confidentiality
  • reimbursement of fees
  • privilege
  • procedural fairness
  • coercive interviews, and
  • Integrity Tribunals.

In addition to these fact sheets, clarification on Commission processes can be obtained from our website, or by speaking to the Commission representative listed on any notice received.

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What are your ethics training requirements?

The Integrity Commission Act requires the principal officer of a public authority to ensure their employees (public officers) and elected officers (for local government) are provided with appropriate education and training in relation to ethical conduct.

Section 32 of the Act requires the education and training relate to the:

  • operation of the Act and the conduct of public officers
  • application of ethical principles and obligations to public officers
  • relevance of any applicable code of conduct, and
  • rights and obligations of public officers regarding contravention of applicable codes of conduct.

The type of training provided will depend on the organisation.  There’s no obligation for it to be provided by the Commission.

Having said this, we recommend organisations consider undertaking our foundation modules as a minimum and progress to extension modules.  There also other resources such as our ethical scenarios which can be used to generate discussion, highlight misconduct risks and consider options on how they can be best managed.

The Commission encourages public authorities to include in their annual report the initiatives they’ve undertaken pursuant to Section 32 to highlight their efforts in fostering a strong ethical environment. The misconduct prevention, research and education team is happy to discuss your training requirements. They can be contacted on 1300 720 289.

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Why notify the Commission of misconduct allegations?

Most public sector employees do the right thing, most of the time. On occasion however, public sector organisations will have to deal with allegations of misconduct.

Currently the requirement to notify the Commission is optional. The legislated 5-year review of the Commission recommended that notifications of serious misconduct by public sector organisations become mandatory. At present, a number of public sector organisations provide voluntary notifications of misconduct to the Commission.

The Commission has an online form to complete and we can be contacted if there are any questions. Notifications can be made at any part of the process; but as early in a process is usually best.

The receipt of a notification from a public sector organisation is not treated the same as a complaint made to the Commission. Notifications don’t trigger an investigation. They provide information about misconduct incidents being addressed in public authorities. This information supports the prevention, education and research areas of the Commission.

From the Commission’s perspective there are a number of benefits in organisations being proactive and choosing to notify us, including:

  • highlighting emerging misconduct risks,
  • identifying any trends, and
  • better directing education resources.

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Sixth Australian Public Sector Anti- Corruption Conference (APSACC 2017)

The Integrity Commission is proud to be a partner of the sixth Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference (APSACC), to be held in Sydney from Tuesday 14 to Thursday 16 November 2017.

The APSAC Conference aims to expand attendees' knowledge to identify corruption and misconduct risk areas and increase their awareness and understanding of practical solutions to minimise these risks. The program comprises anti-corruption practitioners and experts in management and leadership, change and communications, investigations, audit and oversight, governance, and research.

The conference is expected to be attended by over 500 public sector specialists and executives. APSACC 2017 is an opportunity to expand your professional network of anti-corruption practitioners and make valuable contacts within the Australian public sector.

The program includes over 80 speakers, more than 20 sessions and over 6 interactive workshops. There will also be pre-conference workshops. Registrations are now open (early bird rates close on 15 August).

Who should attend?

It is anticipated conference attendees will include key decision makers from all tiers of government in Australia and overseas, including:

  • public sector executives and managers
  • corruption prevention specialists
  • governance managers
  • local government executives
  • planning specialists
  • senior police officers
  • university executive members
  • academics
  • business analysts
  • change managers
  • policy advisers
  • internal auditors, and
  • investigators.

For more information about the APSACC program of speakers, workshops and registration go to the website or email .

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The content of this newsletter is the responsibility of the Chief Executive Officer of the Integrity Commission, Richard Bingham.