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Complaining Against a Federal Agency… How Hard can it Be????

By The Frots - 24 June 2010 19

Having been a Public Servant for around 340 years (it seems like it anyway) and, more thankfully, having recently left, I was disturbed to hear of some matters relating to an ‘Ethics ‘ issue in a ‘high profile’ agency.  After a letter to the CEO of the agency by the affected staff (several of them apparently), sadly nothing happened other than a raft of further complaints against the SES Officer from other, still serving people in the same agency. The SES Officer remains in the position and is apparently intent on ‘getting even’ it would seem.

It’s okay for me (and a lot us I suspect)… I’ve moved on into a disgraceful retirement.  But further issues are emerging from these staff now who have gone through complaints systems in the agency only to be dismissed. 

So, where to from here?  Looking for advice on who to go to after the agency avenue has been a failure… and trust me, the agency in question isn’t helping at all.  Aside from ACA, slipping a ‘briefing’ to Senate Estimates or taking out a front page section in the Budapest Times, anyone out there who has either had a similar experience or can offer the best avenue for advice?

Just for the record, the particular SES person apparently has a track record of bullying, harassment and all matter of nasties towards staff.  Legal action will ultimately ensue, but in the meantime there are some staff still there to be protected.  It’s sad, but true, that this sort of behaviour still continues to be the norm in some of our allegedly ‘blue chip’ agencies.

What’s Your opinion?


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19 Responses to
Complaining Against a Federal Agency… How Hard can it Be????
The Frots 9:05 pm 24 Jun 10

Hi – not Andrew (at least not today). No, ITSC isn’t the one.

ConanOfCooma 8:27 pm 24 Jun 10

Is that you Andrew? Not talking about the ITSC are you?

The Frots 4:29 pm 24 Jun 10

Thanks all for the response.

The APSC seems the best first avenue and we’ll see from there. As eyeLikecarrots said, I probably shouldn’t worry – but they were staff that I knew well and were dedicated to their work, not to themselves. Now the bullying and vicimization continues for them. It is a sad, and disgusting, reflection that our Federal Agencies ‘protect’ these fools but alas it is what it is.

By the way, it isn’t the ‘ABS’ but I may know who you are talking about. Let’s say this place is in Civic and, hyperthetically, let’s say that’s it not the AFP but has similar objectives!!!

WillowJim 3:02 pm 24 Jun 10

If you’re no longer a public servant, I think you’re stuffed. There are no formal whistleblowing channels available to you. The Public Service Act only allows current public servants to make formal reports of misconduct. Rudd has prepared new whistleblowing laws, but I don’t think they’ve been through Parliament yet.

Why don’t you ask those who are being bullied to make the complaints?

Anna Key 3:01 pm 24 Jun 10

PBO said :

Hmmm, ABS?

My guess is one located in the south, and its possibly the same SES that had a raft of similar issues raised against them about 10 years ago

PBO 2:47 pm 24 Jun 10

Hmmm, ABS?

eyeLikeCarrots 2:23 pm 24 Jun 10

You’ve retired and your worried ?

Blow that whistle!!!

steveu 1:40 pm 24 Jun 10

go to the media. put their name in thie paper, being careful how you word it. This usually grabs the attention of the minister responsible for this person and things *may* happen that way.
Sorry to hear this is going on – disgraceful. I think the office of professional Review (the mob that handles doctors ethics/medicare fraud) has a person who was named in the paper as it ended up in a civil suit being made against the alleged harasser.
Fingers crossed (shameful that we should have to even say this in this circumstance) and good luck.

dtc 11:55 am 24 Jun 10

have everyone go on stress leave and Comcare will start investigating. They may not have much clout themselves (in terms of prosecution or discipline) but it can be pretty embarrassing for the agency. At the very least, Comcare can recommend the ‘injured’ person be transferred to another area as a condition of returning to work.

Knowing nothing about public servant rights (so this advice is worth what you pay for it), if the issue has been brought to the attention of the agency and nothing is done, that sounds like a good basis for some form of legal claim – maybe HREOC or a common law claim in negligence.

Thumper 10:30 am 24 Jun 10

Weeziepops nailed it.

There is nothing you can do so forget it.

mooo_cow 10:27 am 24 Jun 10

Simple solution, Agencies must hand any concerns regarding an SES Officer over to the APSC, instead of agencies doing an internal investigation and then giving their pals a slap on the wrist.

Agencies seem to forget that when a complaint is made, it most likely is the tip of the iceburg. It would be the only way to weed out the few bad SES apples that cause grief for everyone below them.

Hank 10:07 am 24 Jun 10

Write to the shadow minister they would love to bring it up.

neanderthalsis 10:01 am 24 Jun 10

Talk to the APSC Ethics Advisory Service. If that goes nowhere, ministerials are always entertaining.

ebony57 9:59 am 24 Jun 10

The APSC have an ethics advisory service which might be the best first port of call. The APSC also have a range of documentation available with regards to how to make formal complaints, and their Annual Report also contains info from Merit Protection (they can be involved in the investigation process). http://www.apsc.gov.au/ethics/index.html

Each agency will have its own processes/procedures for handling misconduct and resolving workplace issues – it’s important that whoever is filing the complaint follows this process, as trying to bypass to get something done can backfire spectacularly.

In all processes, it is important that a body of evidence accompany the complaint – if a formal investigation is undertaken, then concerned parties will need to provide evidence and statements, but don’t forget that the accused has the right of reply.

Whistleblowing is an option, but must be considered carefully. There are two sides to every story, and both sides should be afforded an opportunity to state their case. It’s also worth noting that the principles of natural justice should apply, and that if the complaint is determined to be malicious or vexatious, the tables may be turned rather unpleasantly.

weeziepops 9:50 am 24 Jun 10

Give up any hope of justice when itcomes to bullying by SES level staff. At best, the SES officer in question will be moved on to another position at the same level and salary.

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