IBAC’s current quarterly e-newsletter offers valuable insights into public sector corruption
Preventing corruption and building integrity through mandatory notifications
Chris Eccles, Secretary, Department of Premier and Cabinet reports that the introduction of public sector mandatory notifications have expanded IBAC’s corruption jurisdiction. These changes have meant IBAC can investigate a wider range of conduct, which includes the introduction of a requirement for “heads of public service bodies and local council CEOs to report suspected corrupt conduct to IBAC from 1 December 2016.”
The introduction of mandatory notifications offers several benefits including:
- The practical benefits to IBAC knowing about public service corruption, as well as offering intelligence about the types of corruption that occur, why they occur and how. Information gathered from mandatory notifications will enable IBAC to determine whether it needs to investigate or take other action, such as referral to the Ombudsman or Victoria Police.
- Implementation of a strategic change from discretion to mandatory reporting. Writes Eccles, “It reflects the Government’s view that building an integrity culture in the public sector is mandatory not discretionary, and that this is dependent on leaders being aware of what is happening in their organisation, encouraging reporting, and taking active steps if they suspect corrupt conduct is occurring.”
According to Eccles, this means public sector leaders will need to “take positive steps to ensure that they are made aware of any suspected corruption in their organisations.” Furthermore, it is suggested that embedding a culture of integrity within organisations will assist with this process.
A key finding of IBAC’s investigations into corrupt conduct within the former Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), now the Department of Education and Training (DET), was, writes Eccles, “that a prevailing culture among senior officers within DEECD not only contributed to the conduct identified but also hindered opportunities to uncover and address that conduct sooner.”
Such a finding is a reminder to those working in the public sector that an organisational culture that “respects and promotes integrity” is crucial if corrupt conduct is to be reduced.
As part of its response to IBAC’s investigations, the Victorian Secretaries Board, the peak leadership group of the Victorian public service, “reaffirmed its commitment to a robust culture of integrity and reiterated its expectations bout ethical behaviour.” It has also created an action plan that will serve to strengthen integrity in the Victorian public service.
With these measures, it is hoped that the public service will “assist in preventing corruption, and be able to more readily identify and respond to corruption when it occurs,” writes Eccles.
Encouraging sector whistleblowing
IBAC’s new podcast is Encouraging sector whistleblowing with Dr Suelette Dreyfus, Lecturer in the Department of Computing and Information Systems at The University of Melbourne.
Dreyfus is a technology researcher, journalist and writer, and part of her research examines how technology impacts whistleblowing. In this podcast, Dreyfus talks about the importance of reporting corruption, and offers sage advice about how to encourage public sector workers to “speak up”.
In her opening comment, Dreyfus offers the following metaphor when addressing the importance of whistleblowing in the public sector:
“I like to think of whistleblowers as being like ballast in a ship that tends to right it when it's listing too far to one side or the other. That's because when you get corruption or serious wrong doing as in taking a bribe – they actually impose the values of the society they live in on an assessment of whether or not what's being done is right or wrong. All it takes is one person in the room to actually stand up to say, no this is not right and it re-rights the ship.”
The discussion, which also includes research insights about Australian and international public opinion about preferred ways of reporting wrongdoing – via official channels or a journalist or news organisation, for example – Dreyfus rounds out her talk by offering some startling examples of the “profound effects” whistleblowing has had in cases such as health care and aged care in the UK, as well as the many challenges that face potential whistleblowers. Among these include the fear of retribution, whistleblower protection, and the ‘five stages of whistleblowing’, which Dreyfus describes as a “sort of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief.”
Listen to Encouraging sector whistleblowing here.
Or read the transcript here.
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IMAGE: Used under licence from shutterstock.com
Written by Wendy Cavenett
[category courtheath's blog]
[corruption, public sector, whistleblowing]