26 November 2011


The national Public Service Commissioner, ie the official concerned with most Commonwealth government agencies (some 166,000 people), has released a 361 page report on the State of the Service [PDF].

The report includes data on identity fraud offences by officials and on action regarding privacy breaches and leaks.

It indicates that in relation to "Fraud other than theft (e.g. identity fraud)" some 54 employees were investigated in 2009-2010 and some 64 in 2010-2011. 61% of the investigations in 2009-2010 resulted in a finding that fraud had occurred, compared to and 83% in 2010-2011. There were 19 investigations into "Unauthorised disclosure of information (e.g. leaks)" in 2009-2010, with 24 in 2010-2011. The investigations substantiated the claims of a breach in 42% of investigations in 2009-2010 and 71% in 2010-2011. Percentages look so much more impressive, presumably. There is no clear indication of the penalties.

In relation to "Improper access to personal information (e.g. browsing)" the report indicates that there were 166 investigations in 2009-2010, compared with 145 in 2010-2011. 82% resulted in an adverse finding in 2009-2010; 83% in 2010-2011.

The report indicates that -
Reprimands and deductions from salary continued to be the two sanctions most commonly applied, representing 61% of all sanctions imposed. While most sanctions declined in absolute numbers from the previous year, consistent with the smaller number of cases finalised, the results indicate that agencies appear to have been more willing to demote employees as a sanction for misconduct. The ATO, Department of Defence and Department of Human Services together accounted for 62% of all terminations and 79% of resignations of employees under investigation
It goes on to state that -
The proportion of investigations undertaken as a result of a whistleblowing report remained low this year, comprising 1% of all investigations.

Regulation 2.4 of the Public Service Regulations requires agencies to develop procedures for dealing with whistleblowing reports, that is, reports of breaches of the Code of Conduct made by an APS employee to an authorised person. All agencies had agency-wide whistleblowing procedures in place this year. Reports made under the scheme are considered and a decision made about whether an investigation should be conducted under the agency’s section 15(3) procedures to formally determine whether there was a breach of the Code.

This year, agencies were asked to provide details on whistleblowing reports lodged and finalised during 2010–11. Seventy-six reports were lodged with agency heads or authorised representatives and 52 inquiries into whistleblowing reports were finalised in 2010–11. Of those finalised, only 10% concluded that an investigation into the alleged misconduct should begin. ... The most common allegations concerned harassment and/or bullying (23%), improper use of position or status (16%) and fraud other than theft (14%).
Overall "less than four in every 1,000 employees [were] found to have breached the APS Code of Conduct", albeit "18% of APS employees reported having been subjected to harassment or bullying in the workplace in the previous 12 months".