Lloyd could have avoided code of conduct breach

By David Donaldson

August 9, 2018

John Lloyd breached the code of conduct, but could have taken actions to avoid this risk, says the Merit Protection Commissioner. It’s now in the hands of the parliament’s presiding officers.

Recently retired Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd breached the public service code of conduct through his contact with right wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, the Merit Protection Commissioner has found.

The inquiry followed a complaint that Lloyd had sent APSC research about public service enterprise bargaining to the IPA, where he used to be a director.

Lloyd should have been aware that this would be seen as “a political action”, said Merit Protection Commissioner Linda Waugh in a letter seen by most Canberra media bureaus overnight.

Asked about the inquiry by The Mandarin, the Merit Protection Commissioner was tight-lipped. A spokesperson would only confirm the document has been sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate, meaning any further response is up to them.

“Ms Waugh has provided her report to the Presiding Officers and is unable to make further comment,” said the Merit Protection Commission.

The Speaker did not respond to requests for comment, nor answer questions about what the presiding officers intended to do with the now finalised report.

Lloyd could have avoided the risk of breaching the code of conduct, Waugh argued. She said there were “alternative courses (eg publishing the document so that its existence and content was available to everyone or passing the request to another senior officer to deal with) available to Mr Lloyd to mitigate these risks, but Mr Lloyd did not choose to do this”.

Lloyd’s actions had failed to uphold the agency’s reputation, Waugh said, neglecting the onus on public sector employees to “act in a way that models and promotes the highest standard of ethical behaviour.”

But his actions were not of “sufficient gravity” to occasion punishment, she said. Rather than acting out of dishonesty or lack of integrity, Waugh believes, Lloyd was unaware of the “clear” risk in making contact with the partisan group.

“It was clear that such action would likely be viewed by critics as a strategic and controversial initiative by Mr Lloyd to build a coalition of support for his views, and as a political action, if it were to become publicly known, as it subsequently did,” Waugh said.

Waugh said Lloyd had not used APSC resources to do research on the IPA’s behalf, and that his contact with IPA boss John Roskam took place two months after commissioning the paper.

The inquiry concluded right on deadline, with Lloyd officially finishing in the $678,000 job on Wednesday. His contract was not to run out until December 2019, though Lloyd denies his decision to quit had anything to do with the investigation.

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