The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Australian Centre for Healthcare Governance have teamed up to develop a new resource that helps reduce fraud and corruption in the state’s health sector.
The DHHS Integrity Governance Framework and Assessment Tool was launched in June to prevent fraud and corruption in Victoria’s health service organisations and strengthen their integrity culture.
The resource can adapt to the unique needs and features of all health services, according to Director of Rural and Regional Health Andrew Crow and DHHS Assistant Director of Policy, Projects and Strategy Judy Sutherland.
Health services can use the resource to assess integrity management practices for employment principles, procurement, finance, and governance. An assessment tool auto-populates responses on an integrity map to give an overall view of integrity controls and systems for health services, while a map highlights vulnerabilities in integrity practice. Services can use an action plan to identify their priority areas, required actions and areas of responsibility in a format that allows easy reporting so improvement actions can be easily monitored.
Crow and Sutherland said the department engaged the Australian Centre for Health Care Governance (ACHG), to develop the framework and assessment tool following an IBAC investigation into two Bendigo Health officers. The investigation found organisational and systemic corruption vulnerabilities that facilitated misconduct, and was “an opportunity for the DHHS to consider how to best support health services identify and manage integrity-related risks”.
“While most staff in Victoria’s health sector do the right thing, there have been some instances where individuals have exploited vulnerabilities, resulting in health services being exposed to instances of fraud and corruption,” they said in an IBAC insights report.
ACHG consulted with state health services in 2018 to identify their specific needs. The developed resource reflects the varying size and complexity of health services by being “scalable for different services, rather than applying a ‘one size fits all’ approach”, and could be used in other public, private not-for-profit health and community service organisations.
Crow and Sutherland said the integrity of an entity is everyone’s responsibility, and the resource speaks to that.
“Developing policies is one aspect of managing risk, however implementing these into practice and ensuring the actions of individuals are in line with these policies can be challenging. This is where the framework and tool’s theme of shared responsibility in managing these risks is an important difference,” they said.
“If a health service identifies vulnerabilities in their current practice, it should consider what processes need to be developed to address these, using the assessment tool for guidance on suggested improvements. The action plan would then be updated to identify these actions, timelines for when they will be completed and who is responsible. The action plan allows easy reporting and monitoring of progress to an organisation’s executive and board of directors. Management of integrity risk involves continuous improvement; health services are expected to periodically assess their capability and measure their improvements over time.”
Anyone who suspects fraud and corruption are encouraged to report to IBAC or DHHS, although there may be circumstances where they will need to report to Victoria Police, the Minister for Health or the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office, they said. The manager of the department’s Corporate Integrity Unit can also help determine reporting obligations.
“Health services need to proactively address the types of integrity risks all organisations are faced with, build better understanding of these challenges and educating people to see the important role every health sector employee plays in managing integrity risk.”