As the recent release of Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) attests, no country is immune from corruption. In this blog we look at new research investigating malfeasance in public administration, and then offer an overview of the Victorian Public Sector Commission’s guide on preventing corruption. We also link to IBAC's corruption prevention tools.
The 2020 CPI, which placed Australia in eleventh place with a score of 77 points on a 100-point scale, reflected Australia’s decline since its 2012 peak score of 85 points, a decline, Professor Adam Graycar described as significant because “trust in our institutions is fundamental to our functioning as a society.”
In Victoria, IBAC is tasked with exposing and preventing corruption, and the first edition of its newsletter for 2021 highlights Professor Graycar’s research with colleague Adam Masters that investigates malfeasance in public administration, particularly in low corruption environments like Australia.
According to Graycar, Australia is not facing a “corruption crisis” because of the relatively high standards of our public sector, but, he says, “IBAC and other integrity agencies are kept extremely busy with investigations that uncover corruption and misconduct, including the exposure of concerning irregularities, often appalling behaviour, and sometimes criminality.”
Graycar and Masters’ research offers practical ways local and national organisations can help prevent corruption in public administration.
Most areas of public administration fall within five categories:
Using interviews and case study materials, Graycar and Masters developed 20 situational measures for public administrators across these categories. The researchers then conducted workshops with government participants across many countries in an effort to gain a deeper understanding about:
The researchers asked participants to concentrate on their own work environments as well as develop general strategic approaches.
Workshop data offered practical ways the integrity of public administration could be strengthened, including:
Graycar and Masters’ research was based on seeking and applying successful crime prevention methodologies in corruption prevention. “The research,” writes Graycar, “helped us to re-think how to deliver anti-corruption responses in a low corruption environment.”
The researchers found that crime prevention techniques such as the integration of complex passwords and increased surveillance were only part of the solution in a low-corruption environment.
A key finding was the importance of language. For example, rather than lecturing to public officials as though they had already committed an offence or were criminally inclined, language should implicitly and explicitly encourage and support honesty and integrity.
Another key finding was the importance of relating prevention resources to specific work environments and the corruption risks people faced. “As in crime prevention,” Graycar writes, “the best and most effective approach is to encourage good governance and emphasise positive behaviour such as how agencies can build integrity and strengthen corruption prevention.”
Graycar and Masters recommend organisations workshop corruption prevention resources using examples specific to that work environment. “Sitting with your colleagues,” concluded Graycar, “discussing the options from the perspective of lived experience, and having leadership embrace and support the results helps put your organisation on a path to integrity and better practice.”
The Victorian public Sector Commission (VPSC) considers that “organisations should appoint a senior executive Corruption Prevention and Integrity Champion to lead and coordinate work within their organisation and to share good practice. Making appropriate expectations around integrity front and centre in all performance agreements helps embed high ethical standards throughout the organisation. “
Employee awareness of how to make ethical decisions is part of good workplace practice.
The values and principles help people determine how things ought to be done. They guide work practices, interactions and behaviour within an organisation. They are the foundation on which an organisation operates and apply across all levels of the organisation – from the Secretary or Chief Executive to frontline employees.
The most effective ethics development programs from around the world help employees make sense of organisational values, raise awareness of ethical responsibility and assist employees to develop skills in ethical problem solving.
The Victorian Public Sector Commission’s goal is for:
Senior accountability for the ethics system reassures your employees that ethical issues are taken seriously within the organisation. Think about whether your organisation has the right:
Every organisation should appoint a senior executive Corruption Prevention and Integrity Champion to lead and coordinate work within their organisation and to share good practice. Making appropriate expectations around integrity front and centre in all performance agreements helps embed high ethical standards throughout the organisation.
– IBAC also offer a comprehensive resource around corruption prevention measures.
– See also the following CourtHeath blogs on corruption and corruption prevention:
A participant in the UN Global Compact, CourtHeath seeks to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the Global Compact with business and government organisations in Victoria.
Image used under license from
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Written by Wendy Cavenett and Pauline Bernard
[corruption, IBAC, public service]