Circular Number 2023-27
Issue date: 5 May 2023
Application: All Victorian public sector employees
Enquiries: Integrity and Oversight branch
Victorian Public Sector Commission

On 19 April 2023, IBAC released a Special Report on Operation Daintree, which identified:

  • improper influence in relation to a procurement process, and
  • conduct by senior public servants that fell short of the required Victorian public sector standards.

The Government is considering the recommendations and will make a response in due course.

What the investigation found

The report includes a number of findings relating to ministerial advisers and raises issues of concern for the public service, including that:

  • Proper and competitive processes for procurement and contract management were not followed, resulting in a poor use of public resources.
  • The decision to award a contract to a particular supplier was based on the perceived preference of the Minister’s office.
  • Senior public servants did not provide full and frank advice on the procurement, as required under the Public Administration Act 2004 and Code of Conduct for Victorian public sector employees.

Why full and frank advice matters

As public servants we are overwhelmingly motivated to serve our community and advance the interest of Victorians. Victorian public servants work hard every day to be forward-looking, respectful and to deliver the highest quality work.

I want to remind all public servants that we are bound to work at all times in accordance with the seven public sector values and Code of Conduct.

One of these Public Sector Values is responsiveness. As the Public Administration Act 2004 tells us, responsiveness requires frank, impartial and timely advice to the Government. This upholds the Westminster principle of an apolitical public service, which ensures that government has the information it needs to:

  • make decisions for the benefit of the community
  • use resources wisely.

Where to get support

The VPSC has produced Informing and advising ministers in the Victorian Public Service (VPS), which provides guidance on how to advise ministers if you’re a VPS secretary, executive or staff member.

The guidance emphasises the need for secretaries, executives and staff to:

  • provide frank and fearless advice openly, transparently and apolitically
  • support the provision of difficult advice by acknowledging issues and being responsive by offering possible options and solutions
  • implement working arrangements that operate effectively in urgent situations
  • uphold and model the public sector values
  • build a trusting relationship with the Minister and their office through consistent practices and the provision of evidence-based advice consistent with the public sector values.

If you are unsure or lack confidence in how to balance these responsibilities, I encourage you to seek support from within your organisation.

  • If you find yourself in a situation in which you are unsure of how to proceed in line with the Code of Conduct, I would encourage you to seek support and advice from your manager and colleagues.
  • Should you feel uncomfortable raising this issue with your manager, I encourage you to speak to someone you trust in the public service.
  • In addition, the Learning and Development team in your organisation will be able to provide you with advice on development opportunities.
  • Finally, the Integrity or Governance team in your organisation will be able to assist or advise you in particular circumstances, including if you need to escalate a concern.

If you have serious integrity concerns about the behaviour of the public sector, you should consider formal processes for reporting this. For example through the Public Interest Disclosure process.

The Victorian Public Sector Commission is also here to provide advice to executives and staff in complex situations. Please email

Guidance on the public sector values can be found on our website.