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SA public sector misconduct register expected in October

South Australian government agencies will be able to look up job applicants in a misconduct register from October to see if they’ve ever been disciplined in a previous public sector role or departed under a dark cloud.

Commissioner for public sector employment Erma Ranieri (pictured) told The Mandarin the new central register was in the works last May, but wasn’t able to put a date on its commencement. Now her office says it’s only a couple of months away, The Advertiser reports.

The register will contain information on disciplinary proceedings and misconduct investigations, including those that were not concluded before the employee resigned.

“The register, which is being developed in consultation with agencies, is expected to be operational by October 2018 and will support more rigorous integrity checking during the recruitment process, and help achieve better-informed recruitment outcomes,” Ranieri’s spokesperson told the Adelaide newspaper.

Ranieri said last year that one key focus of the consultations with agencies was about how to make the process of recording information in the register fair to candidates and respectful of privacy in terms of what is recorded and shared with prospective employers.

The approach is to make sure recruiting staff are forewarned, both about a candidate’s past indiscretions and perhaps, more importantly, about whether they have tried to hide them, but not to set rules whereby anyone is automatically barred from future public sector jobs.

“If it’s historical and not related to the work they do, you have to be fair,” said Ranieri in May. “I’ve thought long and hard about that.”

“The approach is to make sure recruiting staff are forewarned, both about a candidate’s past indiscretions and about whether they have tried to hide them, but not to set rules whereby anyone is automatically barred from future public sector jobs.”

There had already been several cases reported in SA where closer screening would have identified a risky candidate with a problematic past before they got another government job, when Ranieri told us about the register in May. The SA Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Bruce Lander, had proposed such a system several times, including in his 2016-17 annual report.

Bruce Lander’s New South Wales counterpart, Peter Hall, published an in-depth report in February this year on the perils of poor employee screening, referring to many cases where public sector employees have severely abused their positions around the nation, such as the theft of $1.7 million by an employee of a TAFE in south western Sydney.

And who could forget Queensland’s fake Tahitian prince, who had both a hidden criminal history and a list of false qualifications, personal details and achievements that enabled a $16.69m fraud.

In South Australia, the biggest case of this kind in recent years hit the news last September when development of the misconduct register was already well underway. The Department of Premier and Cabinet’s chief information officer Veronica Theriault was arrested and charged over a fake CV, in one of several stories of bureaucrats behaving badly.

The honour system used to work pretty well, when few candidates were brazen enough to make false claims on CVs and job applications, where they could easily be checked, at least in theory.

But as our People and Capability expert James Judge noted, high-profile examples like Theriault and former Myer executive Andrew Flanagan are a reminder that big organisations should expect to come across these candidates on occasion.

The Mandarin contacted the SA Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment to ask for more details about how the register will work but did not hear back by deadline.

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.