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Public sector integrity

Public sectory integrity iconAustralia is a country with some of the highest standards of integrity in government, and we’re taking effective action against the risk of corruption.

We have many ways to prevent, detect, investigate and address claims or perceived corruption across the different parts of our government. This includes internal processes, laws, and appropriate powers to investigate wrongdoing. We are always looking at ways to improve the way this system works.

One of the most important ways Australians can hold the government to account is through our elections, and the discussions we have around them. Participating in elections should be easy and efficient – but we also need to know who is seeking to influence our political processes.

Some ideas about what government could do include:

  • making sure our current integrity processes work together efficiently and are well understood
  • providing information to the community around the forms and sources of foreign influence in our political and governmental processes
  • increasing confidence in the electoral system

Further reading

Discussion questions

  • Is this theme relevant both to Australia’s situation and the Open Government Partnership?
  • Are the ideas effective, relevant, and ambitious?
  • Are there other ideas related to this theme that government should consider?

 

To participate, you’ll need to register for an account. You’ll then be able to respond to the questions under each of the proposed themes, leave a general comment or respond to those of other participants, and vote on comments.

We expect your comments to be respectful and relevant. As comments are moderated, they won’t appear until they’ve been approved. If, after submission, you do not receive a notification stating that your comment has been queued for review, your submission has not been successfully transmitted to us. In this case, please email your submission to ogp@pmc.gov.au and we will publish it on your behalf. Comments will close 30 March.

If you wish to make a longer submission, you can email us at ogp@pmc.gov.au. We’ll publish all submissions we receive.

The outputs from this and the face-to-face consultations will be made available to the Open Government Forum. At its meeting in April, the Forum will be asked to assess those ideas with substantial support, and make recommendations to government on prospective themes and commitments. When government releases its draft National Action Plan for public comments in June, it will also provide a response to ideas.

 

Submissions and comments received via email

Comment

 

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Open Government...

We look forward to receiving your comments and ideas! Just register for an account and leave a comment below.

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Ken Coghill

Australia is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, but as with every country, is at risk of corrupt actions undermining good governance and the efficient, effective and economical use of government funds and national (including natural) resources.

Australia has many ways to prevent, detect and address corruption across the different parts of our government, including politicians and the public service. This includes internal processes, laws and special agencies with powers to investigate wrongdoing. However, these are selective rather than comprehensive – see e.g. the recent report by ANAO which has reinforced concern about control of the risks of corruption in Defence, a huge part of Australia’s procurement budget. Internationally, defence procurement is a massive source of corruption. We are always looking for ways to improve the way this system works and it is notable that the Prime Minister has indicated a willingness to consider a national anti-corruption agency (“first time suggested he is prepared to consider creating a federal anti-corruption watchdog” 11 December 2017).
One of the most important ways Australians can hold the government to account is through our elections, and the discussions we have around them. Participating in elections should be easy and efficient – but we also need to know who is seeking to influence our political processes.
Some ideas about what government could do include:
• making sure our current integrity processes work together efficiently and are well understood
• create a federal anti-corruption watchdog
• providing information to the community around the forms and sources of domestic and foreign influences in our political and governmental processes
• comprehensive reform of political campaign finance law reflecting or bettering international best practice, to reduce the potential for perceived or actual corruption of the electoral process of public policy
• increasing confidence in the electoral system

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Open Government...

The Canberra consultations were held on 14 March and attended by 11 participants from both civil society and government. Key ideas that emerged from discussions relating to public sector integrity included:

  • support for the ideas in the discussion starters, noting that the ideas presented were often more remedial than ambitious.
  • support for a federal anti-corruption agency, and a code of conduct applying to parliamentarians
  • support for publishing charter letters and the official diaries of Ministers and senior executive public servants

public sector integrity

public sector integrity

Participants in these consultations also wanted Open Government National Action Plan ideas from other countries and unprogressed ideas from consultations for the first National Action Plan published. These include:

Parliamentary integrity (NAP1)
Strengthen parliamentary integrity through measures including:

A fuller list of these ideas can be found in the papers for item 6 for the meeting of the Open Government Forum of 7 December.

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Open Government...

The Perth consultations were held on 16 March and were attended by 9 participants from civil society. Key ideas that emerged from discussions relating to public sector integrity included:

  • support for a national anti-corruption agency, especially one that is regulatorily protected against a gradual diminution of powers, and that has the ability not merely to make findings of guilt, but also of exoneration
  • the importance of maintaining sufficient funding for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
  • opposition to the ‘foreign interference bills’, in particular the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, due to what was seen as a chilling effect on charities' participation in public affairs
  • the desirability of fostering a culture of ethical and respectful behaviour in public agencies, and of ensuring that senior executives in the public service are appropriately incentivised to contribute to this
  • real-time reporting of campaign finances and ultimately the public funding of elections
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Open Government...

The Melbourne consultations were held on 20 March and were attended by 18 participants from civil society. Key ideas that emerged from discussions relating to public sector integrity included:

  • support for a broad-based, independent, national anti-corruption agency with investigative and fact-finding powers and scope to hold public hearings, and a responsibility to assist in preventing corruption. Resourcing would need to be sufficient and assured, and the agency would be part of a coherent national anti-corruption strategy that operated across all parts of government.
  • an investigation into corruption in sport
  • an expansion of the application of open contracting principles, prioritising the defence and infrastructure sectors
  • support for expansion of beneficial ownership transparency and the strengthening of whistleblower protections in the private sector
  • the need for an independent whistleblower agency with separate whistleblower support as well as appropriate investigatory functions and powers.
  • a cap on donations to political parties or candidates

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Open Government...

The Sydney consultations were held on 21 March and were attended by 16 participants from civil society. Key ideas that emerged from discussions relating to public sector integrity included:

  • support for a national anti-corruption commission
  • development of real-time searchable database of political donations and gifts
  • support for expansion of existing commitments relating to open contracting and beneficial ownership transparency
  • measurement of public servants’ perception of agency openness in the Australian Public Service Employee Census
  • continual (rather than annual) corporate reporting by government agencies
  • expansion of the operation of the lobbyists register to include in-house lobbyists, include greater detail and strengthen sanctions for non-compliance

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Open Government...

The Brisbane consultations were held on 23 March and were attended by 10 participants from civil society. Key ideas that emerged from discussions relating to public sector integrity included:

  • support for anti-corruption agency; especially one that has separate advisory / education and investigation / prosecution powers and functions
  • regular, machine-readable release of information relating to parliamentary expenses, political donations and registers of interests, published on data.gov.au
  • Better fostering cultures of ethical behaviour in public agencies, including through onboarding and training processes, and measuring trends through APS Employee Census, and incentivising senior executive service personnel to contribute to this.
  • expansion of open contracting
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Mark Phillips

All the consultation groups called for an independent anti-corruption body to be introduced. It is perceived that corruption, whether rightly or wrongly, is a major issue. This call alone demonstrates a lack of trust in the governments decision making process.

The call, by the Melbourne consultation group, for :
“an expansion of the application of open contracting principles, prioritising the defence and infrastructure sectors”
is fully supported by (myself/OSIA). The lack of transparency in the tendering processes, the overuse of “in confidence” clauses in bids, the lack of audibility in the decision making process all lead to a lack of trust in the process and hence the call for this independent anti-corruption body.

Integrity and transparency in the tender process alone would greatly improve the decision making procedure. This could be achieved simply by disallowing any documents marked with “in confidence” with the aim for all documents associated with a tender bid to be released. The possibility of an open third-party review would eliminate, to a large degree, the mistrust of opaque, unaccountable decision making.

The confidentiality, by the government, of the tender process while it’s ongoing is to be expected. Fully publishing all the bid documents of all parties after the fact would indeed show and demonstrate an openness in the process leading to a higher level of trust.

The public sector needs to demonstrate it can be trusted and and a full third-party review after the fact would go a long way in demonstrating this.

The integrity of the public sector should be measured against a criteria of “in the public interest” as validated by third-party scrutiny.

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