Government departments and their senior executives are bracing for greater scrutiny than ever before as the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) start date edges closer.
Finance and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher has delivered a clear message to the bureaucracy that stamping out corruption in public office is not just about elected officials.
Speaking at a national auditors general conference on Wednesday, Senator Gallagher suggested the impact of the work done by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) will be increasingly noticed as the NACC gets traction later this year.
“The potential for corruption within government contributes to the decline in trust that the public has in democracy,” the Minister said.
“With this in mind, and with significant public and political support, the Government has created the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
“The NACC will be able to investigate alleged corruption and report on what it finds … I also see a strong connection rather than an overlap between the Office of the Auditor-General and the NACC.
“The NACC is complementary to the integrity regime of which the ANAO has been a frontrunner.
“The NACC bolsters the mission of the Auditor-General’s office and the ANAO in providing systems and processes to make sure taxpayer money is spent wisely and that public officials are accountable.”
The ANAO has delivered a string of audit reports of late that have been scathing of numerous government agencies – particularly over procurement and contracting issues.
Senator Gallagher said the public sector should expect to see more exposure of anything remotely connected to corruption over the use of taxpayers’ money.
“Even though the office of the Auditor-General in Australia is now 122 years old, the values that underpin its establishment are more important than ever,” she said.
“Australians still highly value transparency and good government and loath corruption, favouritism and deals for mates.
“This has driven the political landscape in a very direct way in the last two years, in particular with voters turning specifically to candidates and supporting those candidates that have transparency high on their political agenda.
“But transparency and integrity has always been central to the work of auditors general.
“We too in the Albanese Government share the values of integrity and transparency – and we fully support the work done by the ANAO and the Auditor-General in respect of their scrutiny of Commonwealth administration and operations, providing impartial and true assessments of the state of the public purse and accounts, and assisting the Australian Parliament in fulfilling its accountability role.”
My Public Sector
The Minister drew a link between transparency in government and improved performance, and reminded her audience that the Public Service Act will be changed to enshrine stewardship as a core value of the Australian Public Service.
The more transparent we are, the more prosperous, she noted.
Recent reports by the International Monetary Fund show official corruption and poor economic performance of a nation go hand in hand.
Pointing to Robodebt, Senator Gallagher said the scheme diminished government and had devastating consequences for individuals “caught up in the system” and facing “enormous stress, anxiety and depression” due to false debt notices being issued.
She also noted the “moral injury” caused to public servants who had to enforce the scheme despite raising concerns about it.
“Even if you were not directly affected by Robodebt, it would have eroded your opinion of government …” the Minister said.
“I know that we cannot afford to take the trust of the Australian people for granted …
“As servants of the public, we are all responsible and accountable for leaving the APS in better shape than we found it.
“And also, hopefully for leaving the APS in better shape for an audit.”