Corruption in the public service

johnboy 4 October 2011 44

whistle

The SMH has an excellent article on the scope of corruption in the Public Service and the lack of mechanisms to properly investigate it.

RiotACT has long lamented the lack of a dedicated corruption fighting body in the ACT and it seems the less savoury types have also noticed.

The SMH is looking for more stories and we’re sure some of you have got them. Just tell them we sent you:

investigations@smh.com.au

[Photo by stevendepolo, CC BY]


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Classified Classified 1:40 pm 20 Oct 11

akinky said :

if i was looking for dirt, i would start with some of the big IT contracts. Several departments are suffering from excruciating IT systems where the contracted provider (say, IBM, just to be random) is obviously failing to meet obligations under whatever service agreemet they signed. How often under this scenario has the contract just been renewed anyway? Its as if IT has this magical untouchable halo.

As someone who once had a friend who worked for a company like the one mentioned, you might want to consider how it is that contracts are negotiated in government. Companies (yes, plural) such as this one, when confronted with rigorous service levels and a customer who is unwilling to negotiate will typically price in the cost of service credits for failing to meet all service levels, so that way when it happens they aren’t too far in the hole.

akinky akinky 11:19 am 20 Oct 11

if i was looking for dirt, i would start with some of the big IT contracts. Several departments are suffering from excruciating IT systems where the contracted provider (say, IBM, just to be random) is obviously failing to meet obligations under whatever service agreemet they signed. How often under this scenario has the contract just been renewed anyway? Its as if IT has this magical untouchable halo.

as for misconduct, how many public servants are reading riot act during work hours today? +1?

The Frots The Frots 10:07 am 20 Oct 11

BethiePrice said :

To continue on…if anyone is watching Senate Estimates, Senator Mason just asked the Secretary of DEEWR to give him information on employers who are being investigated for fraud…tip off or searching for a negative in a mountain of positive?

Hopefully a tip off!

It’s a real shame that they don’t ask one particular agency about a particular SES officer and how many allegations of corruption, bias and poor managment (including Codes of Conduct) have been made against this officer. That will start some wheels turning!

BethiePrice BethiePrice 9:41 am 20 Oct 11

To continue on…if anyone is watching Senate Estimates, Senator Mason just asked the Secretary of DEEWR to give him information on employers who are being investigated for fraud…tip off or searching for a negative in a mountain of positive?

MWF MWF 9:40 pm 05 Oct 11

Loving this thread. Wish there were more posts. However, I’m sure there are others like me just too afraid to post because we will be identified, then crucified by our employers.

I’m too afraid to post in any kind of detail or even officially or anonymously report to my PS employer my experiences of witnessing PS cronyism, nepotism and what I consider corruption and fraud.

One particluar fraud I am aware of, which in my estimate equates to be well over 150K, scares me. Others have reported it and nothing happens. The fraudster simply continues. It has never been investigated and I expect, never will be.

We all know how whistleblowers are treated by Executive while the matters are “investigated” LOL. And we all know what ultimately happens to whistleblowers…

I-filed I-filed 6:07 pm 05 Oct 11

Thumper said :

I have also heard this one many, many years ago, except it wasn’t a female boss. In my opinion it’s an urban myth. Having said that, it’s certainly not an impossible scenario from 20 years ago.

.

Definitely not an urban myth. 1995-96. Female boss turning a blind eye was my director – but not the director of the men who purchased the amp etc. I don’t remember whether their direct boss was male. I saw the (very classy) equipment in its snazzy aluminium wheeled cases with my own eyes!

Jivrashia Jivrashia 4:01 pm 05 Oct 11

housebound said :

* a public official improperly uses, or tries to improperly use, the knowledge, power or resources of their position for personal gain or the advantage of others

There, right there. POSITION, which implies corruption is less likely to occur in the low ranks of the public service. Not to mention corruption, I think, has to involve interaction with organisation or individual external to the government agency. Anything that is internal with no consequence to the public would be a misconduct and dealt with through disciplinary measures or dismissal.

housebound housebound 3:28 pm 05 Oct 11

Jivrashia said :

I would actually distinguish CORRUPTION and MISCONDUCT… Corruption is an outright abuse of position of power or great influence, and which can be easily identified ….Misconduct is a grey area that is never clear cut. (but yes, some misconduct could warrant a criminal investigation) … Asking $300,000 in kick backs? Okay, NOW blow that darn whistle…

As I’ve posted on another thread, the NSW ICAC definition of corruption is useful:
corruption is … deliberate or intentional wrongdoing, not negligence or a mistake. It has to involve or affect a NSW public official or public sector organisation. While it can take many forms, corrupt conduct occurs when:
* a public official improperly uses, or tries to improperly use, the knowledge, power or resources of their position for personal gain or the advantage of others
* a public official acts dishonestly or unfairly, or breaches public trust
* a member of the public influences, or tries to influence, a public official to use his or her position in a way that is dishonest, biased or breaches public trust.

It’s a rather broad definition.

Jivrashia Jivrashia 2:05 pm 05 Oct 11

I would actually distinguish CORRUPTION and MISCONDUCT.

Corruption is an outright abuse of position of power or great influence, and which can be easily identified.

Misconduct is a grey area that is never clear cut. (but yes, some misconduct could warrant a criminal investigation)

Most of the posters here are raising examples of misconduct. Whether it be conducting personal business from their govt agency office desk, or certain office items going missing, it is a matter between the public servant (PS) and their employer. How does one distinguish
– a typical PS conducting internet banking during lunch break, versus an ebay power seller colleague?
– a typical PS taking their laptop so that they can work from home, versus colleague walking out the door with a $40,000 Cisco router?
– a typical PS taking regular smoko, versus colleague who is constantly at their desk but doing no work?

J Winston H used the Kirribbili House to have his daughters wedding. Even though he probably paid for the caterers and the likes, where does one draw the line that he used that residence for personal gains instead of state business (e.g. hosting foreign delegates).

Peter R’s $50,000 phone card busiwack was stupidity, pure and simply. There was no obvious intent of theft or abuse.

Making certain decisions based on favouritism for family, friends, or associates? So long as there is no obvious conflict of interest and any exchange between parties is intangible (e.g. I’ll buy you a beer or ten), then who can cry wolf?

Asking $300,000 in kick backs? Okay, NOW blow that darn whistle…

EvanJames EvanJames 12:39 pm 05 Oct 11

devils_advocate said :

There’s nothing neccessarily wrong with this, a new govt is not entitled to advice prepared for a previous govt.

It wasn’t advice.

Erg0 Erg0 10:25 am 05 Oct 11

This does bring back some memories of my bad old days in (state) government IT, before anyone in management really started paying attention to what the geeks were doing. Besides the software discs, hardware components and occasional whole PC walking out the door, a few people made some serious hay before any kind of internet logging/filtering was put in place.

There’s the obligatory “network admin given a lucrative redundancy after it was discovered that he’d filled a whole server hard drive with adult material during work time” story, but my favourite was the guy who decided to make it his life’s work to download every song that was in the Billboard top 10 from 1980 to 1989. Weeks and weeks of trawling Napster, at al and downloading songs using P2P software on the department network… good times. Pretty sure he’s still working there, too.

Then there was the woman in payroll who was paying herself twice, but was let off with a quiet transfer because she had a (semi-serious) car accident on the day it was discovered, the people who regularly forged their manager’s signature on their overtime forms, the guy who was running a web design business from his desk during work hours… the list goes on. I think that particular department was a little cracked, though – I’ve never seen anything like it since.

devils_advocate devils_advocate 9:53 am 05 Oct 11

EvanJames said :

Hmmm. There was the head of an agency I might have worked for who came into work on the Sunday after the Rudd gov’t got in, and spent the day shredding. We knew this because on Monday, he had 2 giant shredder bags full (of A class shreddings), waiting to be taken away. I’m still amazed he knew how to work the machine, or where the bags even were.

There’s nothing neccessarily wrong with this, a new govt is not entitled to advice prepared for a previous govt.

Thumper Thumper 9:09 am 05 Oct 11

“At her new agency she turned a blind eye while amateur musician colleagues purchased thousands and thousands of dollars worth of full-sound professional PA gear – supposedly to amplify the sound of a single speaker. The gear was, um, found to be too heavy to lug around the country on planes on speaking tours, hiring amplification locally was found to be cheaper (duh) and the high-end concert gear was stashed in a store-room for weekend borrowing by the musos. Eventually it quietly “disappeared”. I expect that was the plan from the beginning.

I have also heard this one many, many years ago, except it wasn’t a female boss. In my opinion it’s an urban myth. Having said that, it’s certainly not an impossible scenario from 20 years ago.

I do know, however, of a current female EL2 who, when the going got tough, simply dropped whole files down the lift well and then denied any knowledge of what was going on.

Quite hilarious really, but she is still an EL2. Quite a nasty piece really.

eyeLikeCarrots eyeLikeCarrots 8:30 am 05 Oct 11

Jack out of the box said :

eyeLikeCarrots said :

This is a start in the right direction.

Next – can we put something in place to audit staff productivity ?

How about we audit public sector productivity just as soon as shareholdes in private sector firms gain the right to audit private sector productivity?

The presumption that all public sector workers are lasy and unproductive is utterly untrue. These people work hard to provide quality services to their communities, in line with the priorities of the government of the day (that you get to elect). Even more, consider that many public sector workers are significantly underpaid (in the order of $24,000!, see http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/ps-worth-24000-more-in-private-sector/2289777.aspx) compared to their private sector counterparts, yet they still go on. How about we shelve the “public servants are lasy” idea until there is an actual reason to doubt their productivity.

Well Jack-in-the-box certainly lived upto his name.

Where did I say ‘public servents are lazy’ ? You took my comment totally out of context. I just happen to be a public servent and I also know many hard working and dedicated people who work in the public service.

But I also know some amazingly shitty and unproductive dead wood … these are the people who need to be made accountable for the tax money they are paid after it gets taken out of the pocket of people like you and me.

Bleet on all you want about the report from the Canberra Times, if you can’t see it for the union driven pay-dispute propoganda it was, then you might as well keep reading the Canberra Times.

ghantoot ghantoot 7:43 am 05 Oct 11

LSWCHP said :

As you can imagine, the guy never actually did any of the work he was being paid to do by the APS. The one thing he produced in a period of 2 years was a dismal failure.

I wonder how many similar stories there are out there.

On purely anecdotal evidence there would be 10s. Extrapolating this out to the Canberra and removing any duplicates it is plausible that thousands of small businesses are being operated at least partially from APS offices.

While I believe there are many hard working and productive public servants, I also fear there is some truth in the words of one staffer who once told me: the APS is just a mass welfare system to keep idle hands paid.

glenenglish glenenglish 6:47 am 05 Oct 11

when I did my 16 months in the public service, there was falsification and manipulation of data at the EL2 , EL1 level, and a blind eye turned at the SES level to cover up the incompetence and poor leadership of the staff at the EL1 and lower levels.

peterepete peterepete 4:35 am 05 Oct 11

One of the challenges here is getting a brief of evidence to be taken up by the police who are busy doing other “important” stuff. They migt rightly argue that in many cases the agency should manage the situation. The push back can take the wind out of the sails of investigation. If its not zero tolerance and you let some things slide, the battle is already lost.

peterepete peterepete 4:25 am 05 Oct 11

EvanJames said :

Hmmm. There was the head of an agency I might have worked for who came into work on the Sunday after the Rudd gov’t got in, and spent the day shredding. We knew this because on Monday, he had 2 giant shredder bags full (of A class shreddings), waiting to be taken away. I’m still amazed he knew how to work the machine, or where the bags even were.

Thats the first lesson

I-filed I-filed 2:14 am 05 Oct 11

Frustrated said :

BS story or urban myth.

I have heard many an APS member, quote this story, word for word.

.

Which bit are you calling an urban myth? She was on the same team as me around the time of the trial and I assure you her account of the fraud and that it was her junior employee who was responsible did not ring true.

Re the sound equipment – absolute fact. Alas, I am not able to name the agency. At least 12 employees were aware of it happening, so it’s no surprise the story is circulating.

EvanJames EvanJames 11:53 pm 04 Oct 11

tommy said :

EvanJames said :

Hmmm. There was the head of an agency I might have worked for who came into work on the Sunday after the Rudd gov’t got in, and spent the day shredding. We knew this because on Monday, he had 2 giant shredder bags full (of A class shreddings), waiting to be taken away. I’m still amazed he knew how to work the machine, or where the bags even were.

Luckily the Rudd government implemented every policy he shredded (or at least it appears they have done so).

Yep. They did. I was gobsmacked.

Such a small agency, and yet there’s two of us here!

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