On July 1 2015 the way misconduct is managed and reported in Western Australia changed. The new framework is the result of the proclamation of the Corruption, Crime and Misconduct Act 2003.
Under the new misconduct framework the WA Corruption and Crime Commission will concentrate its expertise and resources on addressing the most serious misconduct and systemic crime and corruption risks in public authorities. It will continue its oversight role in police misconduct allegations. The WA Public Sector Commission takes responsibility for the oversight of minor misconduct of public officers (except for WA Police) and for misconduct prevention and education programs.
Corruption and crime commissioner John McKechnie QC said he was pleased to have taken up his role at a time of this significant change.
“The CCC acknowledges the changing landscape so we have taken the opportunity to evaluate our priorities. In future we will be taking a more strategic, targeted and intelligence-led approach to identifying, preventing and dealing with serious misconduct and corruption.”
While the legislative changes represent an opportunity for the CCC to refocus, it provides new, but complementary functions for the PSC.
Public sector commissioner Mal Wauchope (pictured top) noted the minor misconduct oversight and prevention and education roles were not dissimilar to the oversight and assistance work the PSC already does.
“We have a good history of dealing with breach of standards claims, public interest disclosures, monitoring and reporting to the sector, and assisting agencies to build individual and organisational capability.
“The new functions have not been a ‘bolt on’ for us. We have restructured our business to integrate the minor misconduct functions of promoting integrity and minimising wrongdoing into our daily work.”
The commissioners are keen to ensure the change of function does not cause confusion, duplication or unnecessary “red tape” for public authorities.
“We are mindful of the impact and burden of these changes on all public authorities,” commissioner McKechnie said.
“Commissioner Wauchope and I have been working closely to make the notification process as simple as possible while addressing the new legislative requirements under the CCM Act. We have developed a joint information resource Notification of misconduct in Western Australia, which we believe principal officers will find useful.”
Commissioner Wauchope advised there will now be a decision-making process for principal officers to undertake.
“Principal officers now have to make an informed decision about whether a matter constitutes serious or minor misconduct as defined in the CCM Act, and notify either the CCC or PSC accordingly. We want principal officers to be confident to make informed decisions based on relevant facts and circumstances.”
The commissioners stress that, particularly in the short-term, principal officers should not be fearful of reporting to the wrong oversight agency.
“We would prefer that principal officers notify the agency they believe is the correct one, rather than notifying both agencies.
“Notifying both agencies causes unnecessary duplication. We will use referral powers in the legislation to direct the matter appropriately between us if required and advise principal officers of the reasons for that referral,” commissioner McKechnie said.
A large part of the legislative reform is directed to achieving better outcomes in performance, effectiveness and efficiency. One way the PSC hopes to achieve this is through aligning the requirement to notify minor misconduct close to the statutory threshold.
Commissioner Wauchope said: “Not every conduct matter that lands on a CEO’s desk will have to be notified. We acknowledge that most public authorities are capable of addressing and resolving lower-level misconduct issues quickly and appropriately without immediate recourse to either the PSC or the CCC.”
That said, both the CCC and the PSC are keen to assist principal officers in making the notification decision and assisting with processes to resolve matters promptly and in-house wherever possible.
“This goes to the heart of the PSC’s new misconduct prevention and education role. We have always focussed on building individual and organisational capacity around integrity matters” commissioner Wauchope said.
The commissioners are committed to work together and with public authorities to ensure wrongdoing in the sector is reported and managed appropriately, integrity risks are highlighted and minimised and information is fed back to assist public authorities with managing risk.
“You can rest assured that if either of us has a question, we will simply pick up the phone and talk to each other. In fact we have been doing this regularly,” commissioner McKechnie said.
Commissioner Wauchope added, “I have said before, open and clear communication is the key to any good change management process. That is certainly the basis for our future productive working relationship.”