30 November 2012


The Australian Public Service Commission published its annual State of the Service Report on Wednesday. A chapter on Transparency and Integrity refers to a number of international surveys in which Australia is rated well on good government measures – although in none does Australian score better than New Zealand.

There is not much direct comparability in the rest of the data. The APSC, unlike the State Services Commission, collates returns on code of conduct breaches across the Australian service. Fewer than three employees per thousand breached the code over the last year. The most prevalent offence involved bullying and harassment. It is described as being at a “worrying level”. (Harassment was also the misconduct seen most frequently by respondents in successive New Zealand State Services integrity surveys.)

An employee census suggests that managers’ staff supervisory relationships are poor, as is their performance management. This mismanagement of personality clashes is thought to be behind the growth in harassment.

A graph on the means used to report misconduct shows that whistleblowing is the least preferred method.  There were 54 whistleblowing referrals in the year over which 21% led to investigations.  There were 76 whistleblower complaints in the previous year. Substantial percentage drops included fraud, theft and conflict of interest. Misuse of internet (browsing personal information) and bullying were the growth areas.  

The report recognises the importance of trustworthy officials if the Public Service is to remain a reliable source of information and advice. In 2011–12, most employees agreed that their supervisor (87%) and their senior leaders (68%) often or always act in accordance with the APS Values. These results are similar to last year—89% for supervisors and 70% for senior leaders.  As in the State services integrity surveys, most employees have less confidence that their senior managers lead by example than they have that their supervisor demonstrates honesty and integrity.