ICAC's Report on Corruption and Integrity in the NSW Public Sector

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"A focus on achieving better outcomes overall is better practice in controlling corruption because it allows an organisation to leverage the controls inherent in well-designed and managed systems. Treating corruption simply as a compliance exercise can be a recipe for failure"

Corruption and Integrity in the NSW Public Sector: An assessment of current trends and events, page 8

Overview of the report

This week, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) released its comprehensive report — Corruption and Integrity in the NSW Public Sector: An Assessment of Current Trends and Events. The report outlines emerging trends, case studies, and common public sector practices that have caught ICAC's attention. Whilst the report affirms NSW as "not having a significant level of public sector corruption", it does warn against complacency and highlights that public concern relating to matters of corruption and integrity remains high.

The report is the culmination of numerous sources, including:

  • Interviews with over 80 external subject matter experts
  • All allegations ICAC received between January 2013 and December 2017
  • 28 investigation reports where findings of corrupt conduct were made
  • 54 investigation reports from sister 'integrity agencies'

Key areas of risk identified

Key areas of risk identified in the report are broadly categorised as: poor information management systems, governance failings, and/or unfettered discretion in decision making without appropriate checks and balances. Through the report, ICAC encourages public sector employers to focus on areas where individuals can control decisions unilaterally, and obscure or manipulate information. Critically, poor workplace culture is cited as a common precursor to misconduct.

The primary areas of focus within the 88-page report include:

  • Changes to the way government services are delivered and how this has affected risks of corruption
  • The factors that contribute to misconduct (including existing performance KPIs or rules)
  • Issues of reporting misconduct and speaking-up
  • Common mistakes that happen when complaints are made, including a lack of protection for whistleblowers
  • Conflicts of interest, and the justifications given to not disclose them
  • Trends related to the undue influences on decision making, such as interference with the appointment of a decision maker
  • Corruption risks associated with changing workforce structures, particularly the increased risks associated with short-term labour hire
  • Challenges associated with the "blurred line" between the public and private sectors
  • Risks caused by poor procurement practices
  • Regulatory decisions that can create unintended 'loopholes'
  • Risks associated with NGOs

What does this mean for me?

Lander & Rogers' specialist Government team would encourage public sector entities to view this report as a pulse check. If you have any questions about specific aspects of the report, or how you can implement any of the recommendations ICAC make, please contact us.

A copy of ICAC's report can be accessed here.

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.