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Public agencies 'discourage reporting to ICAC'


A survey of SA public servants has found that less than half believe the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption treats people fairly, and many believe their agency discourages reporting to ICAC and fails to securely handle private information.

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Commissioner Bruce Lander today released the results of his office’s survey of 12,500 South Australian public servants, conducted over four weeks earlier this year.

It reveals 49 per cent of respondents believe ICAC treats people fairly, compared with 48 per cent who don’t know or are unsure. The remaining two per cent of respondents disagreed that ICAC treats people fairly.

Almost half of those surveyed reported that they had personally witnessed corruption or inappropriate conduct within their agency.

The most frequently witnessed inappropriate behaviour was bullying and harassment or nepotism/favoritism.

Conflicts of interest, misuse of power and a failure to fulfil duties were also among the reported conduct.

About one in 20 respondents had encountered bribery, physical assault and people perverting the course of justice.

About one in five said their workplace had to “bend the rules” to achieve its goals.

The survey also reveals a lack of confidence in public agencies to protect whistleblowers.

More than one in 10 surveyed respondents (15 per cent) reported that their organisation “discourages” reporting to ICAC.

More respondents (29 per cent) disagreed that their agency had “adequate protections for those who report” than agreed (25 per cent) and nearly half (46 per cent) reported they did not know, or were unsure, whether adequate protections existed.

Just over half of respondents (54 per cent) expressed the belief that the ICAC was “free from interference” and slightly fewer (51 per cent) believed that action would be taken if they made a report to ICAC.

However, an overwhelming proportion of those surveyed – 93 per cent – said the ICAC was important.

Lander said agencies must review their operations in light of the survey results.

“The survey identified widespread and significant concern amongst public officers about reporting impropriety, both internally and to an outside agency,” he said.

“The results indicated widespread anxiety amongst public officers about making a report and high levels of dissatisfaction with the manner in which their organisation dealt with their report and communicated with the reporter.

“A high proportion of participants reported encountering particular forms of corruption or inappropriate conduct over the last five years.”

He said it was “incumbent upon every organisation to best ensure an environment where a willingness to report improper conduct is valued rather than discouraged and where a reporter can feel safe and supported to make a report”.

Private information: the whole office has access

The report also reveals a lax approach to cybersecurity among public institutions.

In the survey, 33 per cent of participants reported that databases storing sensitive information, such as people’s personal details or financial data, were accessible by generic or shared login details.

“This is an extraordinary result,” Lander’s report reads.

“Access to sensitive and confidential information must be properly controlled,” he said.

“Confidential information stored on a system which can be accessed by means of generic or shared login information means access cannot be audited and the risk of misuse is greatly increased.”

“Organisations should examine their electronic systems to determine the extent to which sensitive and confidential information can be accessed by way of generic or shared login information.”

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