Promoting and advocating for an impartial and professional public sector

For officers and executives, we published a new supplement to the Informing and Advising Ministers guidance previously provided for Secretaries. It contains general advice, relevant to all public servants and specific advice for executives and officers without delegated-secretary authority. It’s written broadly to capture a range of circumstances public servants might encounter when considering whether to brief the minister. This work was completed in response to recommendations made by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.

We provided guidance for employees and managers on how to remain impartial and avoid conflicts of interest during election periods. The Commissioner advocated for and promoted an apolitical and impartial public sector by speaking at staff events across the sector, leading up to the state election.

We issued a Commissioner’s circular in response to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) Operation Daintree report to remind public servants of their obligations under the Code of Conduct and the requirement to deliver frank and fearless advice openly, transparently and apolitically.

We responded to queries on executive employment, maintaining the standard contract and handbooks that aim to ensure a consistent approach to public sector executive employment. This year we completed the final work value assessments for executive positions within public entities, finalising a program of work commenced in 2020 which consisted of around 850 work value assessments. We also trained staff from departments and public entities in how to apply the respective executive classification frameworks.

Driving a preventative approach to integrity and governance issues

We published a Commissioner’s circular and guidance to help VPS employees and employers comply with their obligations under the codes of conduct and the public sector values in the lead up to the referendum to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

We developed an integrity framework which will assist agencies by capturing integrity-related obligations in a central place and guide our legislated compliance and monitoring functions. We also shared People matter survey data with IBAC to inform its assessment of integrity risks.

We provided tools and guidance to aid employees in applying for process reviews of employment-related action in the VPS. We also provided support via email and phone to improve access. We received and closed off 11 requests for reviews of action. One application was accepted, a review was conducted, and resulted in recommendations which were adopted by the relevant public service body.

We undertook annual confirmation of more than 200 lobbyists and government affairs directors, and maintained the lobbyist register in accordance with legislation.

Strengthening integrity and governance capability

We delivered 3 online sessions for board directors of public entities to improve their awareness of integrity obligations with a combined audience of over 900. At each, a panel of experienced board directors provided example scenarios, explaining how to put the public sector values and codes of conduct into practice.

We published new resources for public entity boards, providing a consolidated and comprehensive suite of integrity and governance resources for both new and established public board directors. The resources were developed to support board chairs and directors of Victorian public entities to comply with the Code of Conduct for Directors of Victorian Public Entities and the Public Administration Act 2004.

The resources provide boards with practical advice to help strengthen governance processes, focusing on integrity, governance, financial management, compliance and risk, and recruiting and overseeing the CEO. To promote the resources, we ran a joint webinar with IBAC on good governance and why it matters, attended by 670 people.

We developed 2 eLearns, on Integrity and Working in Government. They support consistent and efficient provision of foundational learning to VPS employees.

Reviewing and enquiring into critical issues

We conducted 3 fee-for-service reviews at the invitation of departments under our review and advisory function. Two of these included consideration of best practice in corporate service delivery for the public service.

As part of the reviews, we consulted the public service and benchmarked performance and FTE with other Victorian government departments, Australian jurisdictions and the private sector. We conducted data analysis and research to support findings, identifying areas for improvement and providing recommendations for change.