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Reporting integrity risks

Not all integrity risks are necessarily a result of misconduct. However, all misconduct poses an integrity risk.

Australian Public Service (APS) employees discharge their duties most effectively where the environment in which they operate has robust internal accountability arrangements and a strong culture of personal and organisational integrity.

Managers are often best placed to observe any indicators of behaviour inconsistent with the APS Values and Code of Conduct. They are also key to setting an ethical tone in their teams and building the trust necessary for employees to report their suspicions or concerns.

Managers should ensure that all of their employees are aware of the requirements to report both integrity risks generally and suspected misconduct specifically. They should also make sure that they understand arrangements within their own agencies for reporting potential misconduct or security risks.

7.1 Encouraging employees to report risks

Agencies are encouraged to promote mechanisms for reporting integrity risks and suspected misconduct. An agency may have more than one way for employees to report integrity risks. Employees may be more comfortable reporting concerns if they can do so relatively informally.

7.2 Reporting suspected misconduct

APS employees have a responsibility to report misconduct, including misconduct by former employees.4 How they should report misconduct will depend on the circumstances. Often it will be a matter of judgement depending on the nature of the suspected misconduct. It's often helpful for employees to discuss the matter with their manager or someone in authority in their agency in the first instance.

Failure to report suspected misconduct can be a breach of the Code of Conduct. Some agencies may also impose additional reporting obligations on employees under their fraud control guidelines and other agency policies.

Usually, an employee who observes misconduct, including criminal behaviour, should report it within the agency. The agency may need to report an incident of criminal behaviour to the appropriate law enforcement body. There may be circumstances where, even after the employee has reported an incident of criminal behaviour to their agency, that employee has an obligation to report the incident to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

7.3 Public interest disclosures

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) allows APS employees to make disclosures about suspected wrongdoings, protects employees who make disclosures from adverse consequences, and requires agencies to take action on those disclosures.

7.4 What happens to a report of suspected misconduct?

How a matter is considered will depend on the circumstances. Not all reported misconduct is best dealt with by investigation. In cases of less serious misconduct, for example, counselling or alternative dispute resolution may be more appropriate.

Where a report is investigated by an agency as suspected misconduct, that investigation will be carried out in accordance with procedures that are generally available on agency websites.

It is important for managers to remember that disclosures of integrity risks or suspected misconduct made to them by employees may be protected disclosures under the PID Act, meaning that they must be acted on and the employee is protected from adverse consequences.

7.5 Suspected misconduct of employees in other agencies

An employee may witness suspected misconduct by an employee in another APS agency. In such cases, reports may be made to the other agency which will then decide whether to investigate the matter. The report may also be able to be made as a public interest disclosure under the PID Act.


4 Section 14(f) of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016.