An ambitious reform agenda including a confidential whistleblower service and tough new requirements on staff and suppliers has been announced on the final day of high-profile corruption hearings into the Victorian Department of Education and Training.
DET secretary Gill Callister’s plan to restore public confidence in the department, following revelations of massive payouts of public monies that privately benefited its senior executives, won’t be limited to just her portfolio. The Victorian Secretaries Board is preparing to enact whole of government reforms in the wake of the Operation Dunham inquiry by the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission.” … I found it hard to listen to some of the revelations coming out … ”
Callister (pictured) left no doubt that she would vigorously continue the work of her predecessor, Richard Bolt, in rooting out the systemic failures of the Ultranet project and, to the greatest extent possible, address the shortcomings of policy, process and culture that allowed this debacle to occur.
“Like many of my colleagues in the department and the wider public service who work hard for the benefit of others, I found it hard to listen to some of the revelations coming out of the recent hearings,” the secretary said on Wednesday. “A number of individuals — repeatedly and over a period of time — failed to uphold the values of honesty, integrity and impartiality the community rightly expects of us.
“Our public education system provides immeasurable value to Victoria’s children and young people, and the economic and social prosperity of our State. As such, we must uphold the highest ethical standards and ensure that as stewards of public education, our conduct consistently meets the public’s expectations of integrity.”
The department recently introduced a confidential “Speak up” service for employees to raise concerns about corrupt, illegal, unethical or negligent conduct, along with new governance arrangements, stronger financial controls and an ethical leadership framework.
Future rollouts from the reform package include tougher requirements on both staff and suppliers to prevent inducements that could influence decision-making and new processes for private interest declarations. The department also intends to develop new training tools for staff to ensure the code of conduct is properly understood by all employees and applied to their work.
Some of these reform components — it is not clear which components at this stage — will be adopted by the Victorian Secretaries Board for application across the whole of government.