A public sector that:
- is transparent and accountable
- has strong governance
- is trusted and acts with integrity.
Promoting and advocating for an impartial and professional public sector
An impartial, apolitical public sector is the foundation for maintaining the trust and confidence of Government, members of Parliament and the wider community. The importance of this is brought into sharper focus during election periods, as was the case during 2021-22.
Consistent with the Commission’s statutory function to advocate for an apolitical and professional public sector, the Commission developed and published 2 guides in April 2022 to support Victorian public sector employees and managers understand and meet their obligations, during election periods.
In addition, the Commission delivered a series of webinars and forums, including an event in collaboration with the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) Victoria and the Victorian Ombudsman, in May 2022. Titled, ‘Frank and Fair – Staying Impartial in the Public Sector’, public sector integrity leaders discussed the importance of impartiality in the public sector, especially in the context of election periods. The online event was attended by 731 people.
In response to Recommendation 76 of the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry, the Commission published Informing and advising ministers: guidance to secretaries about their responsibilities in October 2021.
The publication provides high-level, principles-based guidance for secretaries of Victorian Government departments, and senior executives of the Victorian Public Service (VPS), about the obligations and responsibilities they have when informing and advising ministers. It also outlines how this supports our system in Victoria of responsible government and ministerial accountability.
The guidance was supported by an online forum run in collaboration with IPAA Victoria called ‘Full and frank advice: what you need to know as a public servant’. Attended by 805 VPS employees, the event looked at how all public servants contribute to responsible government.
Throughout the period, the Commission continued to provide advice to public sector employers on standard executive employment contracts and executive employment policy matters.
We also convened regular meetings of Communities of Practice, including the Integrity Community of Practice, the Good Governance Community of Practice and the Registrar’s Network Meeting.
We completed 493 public entity executive classification assessments and 171 VPS executive classification assessments in 2021-22. This includes assessments finalised and those in draft awaiting feedback.
Driving a preventative approach to integrity and governance issues
In 2021-22, the Commission continued to promote its pre-employment misconduct screening policy and resources for public entity executives.
The web-based resource suite, published on 30 June 2021, supports public sector executive employment, ensuring hiring decisions are based on merit and in-line with the public sector values and employment principles.
Throughout the year the Commission continued to monitor and progress efforts to better respond to and prevent sexual harassment across the VPS. As part of this work, a review of the Respectful Workplaces Framework was completed.
We drew on the whole-of-Victorian Government integrity related data from the People matter survey results to better understand the issues in the public sector and used it to inform submissions to external inquiries, and the development of our own resources.
In 2021-22, the Commission responded to 345 queries about the Codes of Conduct and Standards for the Application of Victorian Public Sector Employment Principles, referring matters to departments and agencies where required.
We assessed 9 applications for reviews of action and undertook one review.
We also provided other regular ad hoc integrity-related advice to departments and entities. This ranged from brief responses to straightforward queries, to detailed written advice on more complex matters.
In November, the Commission refreshed the user experience of the Victorian Lobbyist Register website.
We registered 104 individual lobbyists and 5 government affairs directors in 2021-22. The annual confirmation of lobbyists was also completed.
Strengthening integrity and governance capability
In July 2021, the Commission launched its new public board recruitment website, Join a public board. Previously known as ‘Get on board’, the refreshed website supports an inclusive approach to board recruitment, in a modern and user-friendly design.
Throughout 2021-22, the Commission continued to develop its comprehensive suite of governance resources for public entity boards. The resources will better support boards, chairs and directors of Victorian public entities to comply with the Code of Conduct for Directors and the Public Administration Act 2004.
The resources are in final stages of stakeholder consultation and are due to be released in 2022-23.
In addition to the new governance resources, the Commission has developed an online program of information sessions, to better support new board members of public entities, especially those located in regional Victoria. The sessions are scheduled to occur 3 times a year – the first was held in July 2022.
The Commission also delivered 4 targeted presentations to public boards seeking guidance.
Review and enquire into critical issues
Organisations use the findings of reviews to inform organisational performance improvement, ensuring a more professional, accountable, responsive and efficient public service.
On a cost recovery basis, the Commission finalised one review and commenced another in accordance with section 39(1)(a) of the Public Administration Act 2004.