Corruption fears of SA public servants

Nearly 60 per cent of South Australian public servants believe their workplace is “highly or extremely vulnerable” to corruption, citing nepotism and “political interference” as key concerns in a survey by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Corruption.

ICAC released its 2021 Public Integrity Survey this morning, saying 7,196 public servants responded to the online survey, representing 5.4 percent of state government staff and 10 percent of local government staff.

Employees from over 20 departments and agencies participated, including SA Health, Education, Environment and Attorney General, Correctional Services, TAFE and SA Police departments.

Participants were asked if their agency was vulnerable to certain types of corruption. The highest potential category of corruption identified by participants was nepotism in hiring, at 40.9%, followed by political interference at 33%.

Misuse of authority ranked third at 30 percent, while 26 percent believed failure to declare or manage conflicts of interest was a workplace issue and 24 percent cited misuse of authority. confidential information.

The report also found that each category of perceived corruption risk had increased in response since the last survey in 2018, noting that “political interference” was second at 33 percent in 2021 despite the category not being listed. included four years ago.

Respondents made a number of statements about meeting political demands in various ways, including falsifying records.

“Decisions were made for political expediency, rather than in the interest of the organization or the benefit of the general public for whom we are supposed to exist,” one respondent wrote.

“There is currently very strong political influence on the work being done and prioritized, even if it is not the most scientifically sound option,” said another, while one respondent reported “Significant political pressure, where advice from government staff is ignored ”.

Source: ICAC Public Integrity Survey 2021

More than 22 percent of the most recent respondents “indicated that they had personally encountered corruption in their current workplace in the past three years.”

“The results reflect the perceptions of the participants rather than the actual experiences of corruption,” the report says.

“However, beliefs are important as they shape behavior. The perception that a workplace is vulnerable to corruption can undermine job satisfaction and reduce job performance. The belief that corruption in the workplace is overlooked or tolerated can also increase the likelihood that corruption will occur.

While the survey results do not necessarily mean that corruption has increased, “they could indicate that awareness of corruption has increased,” according to the report.

“Furthermore, while participants may perceive their workplace to be vulnerable to corruption, that doesn’t necessarily mean corruption is occurring,” he said.

“It is possible that in areas where there is a perceived high level of vulnerability to corruption, there could also be strong anti-corruption controls.”

The report also found a significant drop in the number of public service participants who said they would report corrupt conduct to someone in their organization.

While 73.2% reported that they would do so in 2018, the figure for 2021 was only 61.4%.

“Preparing and equipping public officials to report corruption is essential to ensure the integrity of public administration,” the report says.

“If public officials don’t know how to report corruption, are discouraged from reporting, or are too scared of repercussions, corruption is likely to go undetected.”

The independent anti-corruption commissioner, Ann Vanstone, said senior public service leaders “need to pay attention when staff point out possible corruption and appreciate how difficult it can be for some officials to report.”

“If public officials believe that reporting is too difficult, risky or useless, corruption will go undetected and untapped. Support for whistleblowers is vitally important.”

Vanstone said the survey was carried out late last year after parliament unanimously passed legislation on the ICAC’s powers and jurisdiction.

“Participants were not asked for their input on the amendments,” Vanstone wrote.

“However, many public officials provided unsolicited comments expressing fear that the changes have eroded the Commission’s independence,” he said.

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