WA professor takes home award for research on APS whistleblowing

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday July 27, 2021

Associate Professor Jeannette Taylor

The Institute of Public Administration Australia has this week named Jeannette Taylor as the winner of the 2020 Sam Richardson Award.

The annual award recognises Taylor’s paper, ‘What causes employees to whistle while they work? Factors affecting internal whistle-blowing in the Australian Public Service’, as the most influential paper published in the Australian Journal of Public Administration in 2019.

Taylor is an associate professor from the University of Western Australia (UWA). Her research was one of six shortlisted papers that were assessed by a judging panel of distinguished public administration academics and young Australian public administration practitioners.

IPAA national president Dr Gordon de Brouwer has described Taylor’s paper as original, innovative, topical and well-crafted.

“It speaks to real life work problems for those in the public sector and is also an excellent, well-grounded paper with good empirical work and strong academic credentials,” he said.

“The panel members were unanimous in their decision, believing that it makes an important scholarly contribution to theory as well as a practical contribution to public administration”.

Taylor’s research examined the impact of the nature of corruption, organisational culture, and employees’ work attitudes and actions on internal whistle-blowing in the APS.

Despite cronyism and nepotism being the most commonly witnessed corrupt behaviours in the APS in recent years, the research found that many APS respondents who had observed cronyism and nepotism were unlikely to blow the whistle. Whistle-blowing behaviour of respondents was also found to be ‘unaffected by observations of theft of official assets’.

However, respondents have blown the whistle for many other types of corruption, including fraud, conflict of interest, unlawful disclosure of government information, and perverting the course of justice.

The report also found that those who have blown the whistle after witnessing someone being bullied at work were three times more likely to also internally report corruption than those who have not acted after witnessing bullying.

Taylor’s receipt of the Sam Richardson Award has recognised the significance of issues such as public sector integrity, according to UWA Public Policy Institute director Professor Shamit Saggar.

“Associate Professor Taylor’s research paper shines a light on what motivates public servants to blow the whistle on corruption in the workplace,” Saggar said.

“This is rare, valuable and timely glimpse into an under-researched aspect of the public sector that will illuminate and inform good governance and public sector integrity in the future.”

One judging panel member, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment assistant policy officer Aashna Rampal, noted that Taylor’s research can be understood by many.

“You don’t need to belong to the Australian Public Service or the public sector to be able to absorb the paper’s content, the data, the discussion and the evidence that’s backing it up,” she said.

“Wherever you work culture is so important and its focus on culture is readily transferrable.”

Read more: With the disruption of COVID-19, whistleblowing has never been more important


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