Mr Roger Wilkins
c/o Anti-Corruption Section
International Crime Policy and Government Branch
Attorney General‘s Department
Robert Garran Offices, 3-5 National Ct
Barton ACT 2600
Dear Mr Wilkins
PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON ‘THE COMMONWEALTH’S APPROACH TO ANTI-CORRUPTION’
I am writing in response to your Department’s request for comments on the discussion
paper released recently to facilitate public consultation on the development of a National
In this context, I thought it might be helpful to draw to your attention the data that the
Australian Public Service Commission has collected relating to misconduct in the
Australian Public Service, including matters that may be considered to be corruption.
The role of the Public Service Commissioner
The role of the Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner) is a central one in the
Australian Public Service (APS), and includes the functions of promoting the APS Values
and Code of Conduct, evaluating performance and compliance, and helping to build the
capability of the Service. The functions of the Commissioner also include investigation of
alleged breaches of the APS Code of Conduct by agency heads, and investigation of
whistleblower reports, generally where they have first been inquired into by the relevant
agency. The Public Service Act 1999 (the Act) also gives the Commissioner the power to
undertake special inquiries, including the ability in certain circumstances to compel
witnesses to give evidence and to produce documents. The functions and powers of the
Commissioner are largely set out in Part 5 of the Act.
The Public Service Commissioner’s role extends to Agency Heads1 and persons employed
under the Act.
Section 44 of the Act requires the Commissioner to report on the state of the APS each
year (the ‘State of the Service Report’) and agency heads must give the Commissioner
whatever information is required for the purposes of preparing that report.
The Role of the Merit Protection Commissioner
The Merit Protection Commissioner’s functions include the review of a determination that
an employee has breached the Code of Conduct, and the investigation of whistleblower
reports (like the Public Service Commissioner, generally in circumstances were they have
first been inquired into by the relevant agency head).
An ‘Agency Head’ means the Secretary of a Department; or the head of an Executive Agency; or the Head
of a Statutory Agency (being a body or group of persons declared by an Act to be a Statutory Agency for the
purposes of the Public Service Act 1999).
AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
16 Furzer Street, Phillip ACT 2606, Australia
T: 02 6202 3500 F: 02 6202 3567 E: email@example.com W: www.apsc.gov.au
The APS integrity framework
The responsibilities and powers of the Public Service Commissioner and the Merit
Protection Commissioner support the actual and perceived integrity of APS agencies and
The APS integrity framework includes elements that have the effect of requiring
employees to avoid actions which are or could be perceived to be corrupt. For example, the
APS Values and Code of Conduct require, among other things, that APS employees:
behave honestly and with integrity;
make proper use of Commonwealth resources; and
do not make improper use of inside information or of the employee’s duties, status,
power or authority to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee
or any other person.
These elements are clear in their intent, are legally binding, and can lead to sanctions—
ranging from a reprimand to termination of employment—if they are not properly
Within the APS, agency heads are responsible for putting in place systems and processes
for ensuring that their employees understand and carry out their responsibilities under the
Code of Conduct and other legislation. Agency heads are also required to establish
procedures for determining whether a breach of the Code has occurred, and may impose
sanctions where a breach has been determined.
Investigation of suspected misconduct that appears to involve corruption or a breach of
criminal law would be expected to be referred to the relevant police service, and the
outcome could involve both a criminal conviction and a finding of a breach of the Code of
Conduct. The Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines make clear that all allegations of
serious or complex fraud involving Commonwealth interests must be reported to the
Australian Federal Police.
Breaches of the APS Code of Conduct
Successive State of the Service Reports have found low levels of misconduct in the APS.
The 2010–11 Report, for example, showed that fewer than four in every 1000 employees
were found to have breached the Code of Conduct. The types of misconduct most
prevalent in the APS have tended to be improper use of internet and email, followed by
inappropriate behaviour (including, but not limited to bullying and harassment) towards
others. Misconduct more likely to be characterised as corruption—such as fraud, theft, or
improper use of position—has remained at low levels. Overall, misconduct in the APS has
been overwhelmingly characterised by isolated acts of poor judgement, rather than
systemic misbehaviour, maladministration or corruption. The nature of the work in the
APS, which tends to focus on national policy development and program delivery, means
that employees may be less likely than their state or local government sector counterparts
to be subject to local business, community and family pressures.
The following table shows types of misconduct in the APS, in finalised investigations in
2009-10 and 2010-11 as reported by APS agencies.
Types of misconduct in finalised investigations, APS, 2009–10 and 2010–11
Cases where a
this type of
Type of misconduct found (%)
Improper use of internet/email 313 213 80 83
Inappropriate behaviour (other than harassment or bullying) 203 148 50 72
of employees during working hours (e.g. unprofessional,
offensive or disrespectful behaviour and comments to other
employees, clients or stakeholders)
Improper access to personal information (e.g. browsing) 166 145 82 83
Harassment and/or bullying 119 114 44 46
Improper use of resources other than internet/email (e.g. 60 72 67 57
Conflict of interest 59 72 61 86
Fraud other than theft (e.g. identity fraud) 54 64 61 83
Improper use of position status (e.g. abuse of power, 69 58 30 50
Private behaviour of employees (e.g. at social functions 24 25 29 68
outside working hours)
Unauthorised disclosure of information (e.g. leaks) 19 24 42 71
Theft 17 11 47 64
Misuse of drugs or alcohol 6 10 0 30
The number of reports lodged with agencies under the APS whistleblowing scheme about
matters that may fall within a definition of corruption is also relatively low as the
following table demonstrates.
Whistleblowing reports lodged within APS agencies, 2010–11
Harassment and/or bullying 18
Improper use of position or status (e.g. abuse of power, exceeding delegations) 12
Fraud other than theft (e.g. identity fraud) 11
Improper use of resources other than internet/email (e.g. vehicles) 8
Inappropriate behaviour (other than harassment or bullying) of employees during 6
Data for previous years may be found at the following links:
working hours (e.g. dishonest or unprofessional behaviour to other employees,
clients or stakeholders)
Conflict of interest 6
Improper use of internet/email 4
Improper access to personal information (e.g. browsing) 3
Private behaviour of employees (e.g. at social functions outside working hours) 3
Misuse of drugs or alcohol 2
Unauthorised disclosure of information (e.g. leaks) 0
Vulnerability of the Commonwealth to corruption threats
To minimise the vulnerability of the Commonwealth to corruption threats, one area worthy
of further examination may be the challenge of ensuring that non-government
organisations and people with whom the APS works conduct themselves and provide
services to the Australian community in a way that appropriately reflects public service
values and community expectations.
In May 2010 the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) released the performance audit
report Application of the Core APS Values and Codes of Conduct to Australian
Government Service Providers, which looks at the extent to which APS agencies ensured
that contractors were made aware of, or are asked to comply with, the APS Values and
Code of Conduct. Among the ANAO’s better practice principles arising from the audit
were that funding agreements to deliver government programs through non-government
service providers should encapsulate, as a minimum, a number of core elements from the
APS Values (or equivalents from recognised industry standards), including having the
having the highest ethical standards.
The Commission looks forward to further involvement as the consultation process moves
to Stage 2 of the development of the Plan.
I agree that this submission may be published.
Ms Penny Weir
A/g Public Service Commissioner
19 April 2012