3 April 2012
Staff in Australian enforcement agencies may find themselves tempted by new integrity tests. The Home Affairs Minister is to promote legislation that will enable federal agencies – the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission, and Customs and Border Protection – to develop processes that will entrap dishonest officers. Many United States jurisdictions have ethics tests – tempting officers by leaving cash or easily misappropriated valuables in situations where the loss appears unlikely to be noted or detection seems improbable.
The Australian Government appears convinced that additional measures are needed to discourage an emerging threat to the community flowing from dishonest officials. The Minister has rationalised the move as law enforcement officials are being targeted by criminals.
Knowing that the offer of an apparently corrupt benefit may actually be an official sting is seen as a way of strengthening the resolve of officials to conduct themselves lawfully. And the scale of the inducement will not disclose the likely source. Over the last four years more than $10 million was sent offshore as bait to persuade top politicians and police officers in several Asian countries to show their hands as part of a drug and money laundering network which sent more than $1.2 billion worth of drugs into Australia.
Each agency head will be responsible for any integrity testing of staff, using processes authorised by the Integrity Commissioner. The Commonwealth Ombudsman and a Parliamentary Joint Committee will have oversight of tests and the outcomes.
Media reports are that unions are lukewarm about the proposal.
Promoting the trustworthy obligations of all employees in New Zealand government agencies is seen as achieving a similar outcome. The State Services Commissioner’s publication Understanding the code of conduct – Guidance for State Servants sets out the meaning for the following trustworthy standards
  • We must be honest
  • We must work to the best of our abilities
  • We must ensure our actions are not affected by our personal interests or relationship
  • We must never misuse our position for personal gain
  • We must decline gifts or benefits that place us under any obligation or perceived influence.
Staff must not only be regularly exposed to discussions about these standards – talking the talk; but these messages must be incorporated into the way agencies work –walking the walk, influentially managers at all levels must model the expected behaviour – by walking the talk.