Restoring the VPS reputation, step one: teach ethical leadership

By Harley Dennett

Friday March 18, 2016

In the wake of the anti-corruption inquiry Operation Dunham, the Victorian Secretaries Board has set in motion a series of reforms and reviews with a collective deadline of the end of 2016.

In details published this week, the VSB committed, individually and collectively to strengthen a “robust integrity culture” across the Victorian Public Sector. The advice, published by Education secretary Gill Callister on the final day of the Independent Board-based Anti-Corruption Commission hearings, explained:

“It is underpinned by first, a recognition of the importance of ethical leadership and decision-making at all levels of the public sector and second, by elevating the profile of the VSB Corruption Prevention and Integrity Subcommittee to drive the VSB’s Integrity Stream.”

Each of the following activities will be continuously evaluated for quality improvement and assurance.

1. Teaching and marking ethical leadership

VSB has announced it will partner with IPAA Victoria on the development of an Integrity Leadership Training Program, in consultation with the Victorian Public Sector Commission.

Executive officers will also be marked on their promotion and demonstration of integrity, with additional clauses added to performance agreements.

2. Review existing conflicts of interest

The VPSC will be tasked with reviewing conflict of interest procedures and make recommendations regarding enforcement. The review will additional examine practical issues around real time disclosures by executives and key senior staff, and identify high risk functions with the VPS.

The VSB in consultation with the Victorian Government Purchasing Board will examine risks with commercial partners and suppliers, with a view to ensure these partners act in an ethical manner when dealing with government. The practical and economic costs of attestation requirements and integrity commitments will also be examined.

3. Rewrite the rules on gifts

Gifts, benefits and hospitality policies and guidance will be reviewed and revised in consultation with the VPSC to ensure distinctions are drawn between inducements for favourable decisions and basic hospitality and courtesies.

If there are better practice standards, whether Australian or international, with respect to prevention the acceptance of inducements, the VPSC will identify and recommend them for rollout across the VPS.

4. Overhaul tendering and procurement

The Department of Treasury and Finance and the Department of Premier and Cabinet will collaborate on developing options to improve assurance for major ICT projects. These options will include requirements for independent project experts to provide ongoing quality assurance at key points and recommendations to government. This comes as the Auditor-General has also had strong concerns about Victoria’s ICT project blowouts.

5. Review the code of conduct

The VPSC will review the guidance given to departments for managing breaches of the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees 2015.

6. Survey employees on ethical literacy

The VSB has commissioned a redesign of the People Matter Survey, starting this year that will reflect and focus on the refreshed code of conduct. The survey will include information about the level of integrity and ethical behaviour literacy across the VPS.

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