The Victorian public sector is large and diverse, with movement of people in and around the sector through a variety of employment arrangements. Over the last decade or so, there has been an increased reliance by public sector agencies on alternative forms of employment, including greater use of contractors and consultants, and engagement of personnel through recruitment agencies.
Employment-related activity in the public sector, particularly recruitment, is routine and constant. The principle of merit-based and competitive recruitment processes is well established. Under the Public Administration Act 2004, public agency heads are required to ensure employment decisions are merit-based. Under the Code of conduct for Victorian public sector employees (VPS code of conduct), public officers are expected to make decisions about employment based on impartiality, rather than favouritism, bias or self-interest. They are also required to use their powers responsibly, and not to provide a private benefit to themselves, their family, friends, or associates.
For the most part, employment activity is well managed and conducted in accordance with agency or public sector-wide standards. However, if employment practices are corrupted, the potential adverse consequences are significant.
Employment practices in the Victorian public sector are clearly vulnerable to corruption and misconduct risks. These risks have been highlighted by IBAC investigations and research, and by other integrity agencies including the Victorian Ombudsman (VO). Risks include recruitment compromised by nepotism and poor management of conflicts of interest, and by ‘recycling’ of employees with problematic discipline and criminal histories. The unwitting recruitment of a person with a discipline or criminal history that should preclude them from employment, for example, can place agencies at risk of the misuse of public funds, as well as substantially damage agency reputations.
The findings of this report are based on consultations with relevant Victorian public sector agencies, IBAC research, investigations and data holdings and other materials. The report highlights the corruption vulnerabilities associated with employment practices across the Victorian public sector and alerts public sector agencies to opportunities to strengthen their systems and practices to mitigate those vulnerabilities. It is noted that agencies need to tailor corruption prevention and detection strategies to their operating environments, to ensure the strategies they adopt are effective and proportionate.
IBAC has consulted with the Victorian Public Sector Commission (VPSC) on the findings of this research report, and understands that the Commission is examining ways in which the vulnerabilities identified can be addressed.