If you are a public officer you should report corruption because you have a mandatory obligation to do so. However, even if you did not have an obligation by law, a sense of justice, fairness and integrity should motivate you to report this type of conduct. And if all that fails to resonate, then you should do it because ultimately it is in your own best interests to do so.
Corruption in public administration affects all of us. It takes trust out of the system, it takes money out of the system and eventually it makes all of us a little less safe and secure.
Trust is central to a well-functioning democratic society. We need to know and believe that government and public institutions act impartially and in the best interest of the community. When we learn of instances where decisions have not been made in the collective interest of the community but in the narrow interests of those making the decision, we trust less.
Corruption takes money out of the system that could otherwise be used for the good of the community. A man, falsely claiming to be a Tahitian Prince, defrauded Queensland Health of $16 million. How could that money have been used to benefit the people of Queensland? Whether the fraud is thousands or millions of dollars, the result is the same; money is diverted away from programs, services and projects that the community could benefit from. When people take what is not theirs, they are taking from all of us.
In a country like Australia we do not often associate corruption with matters of life and death, but it can be. When public officers act in their own vested interests, without regard to the interests of others, they put us at risk. Do you want share the road with an incompetent driver who did not earn their licence but bribed an examiner? Or perhaps eat in a restaurant that passed a health inspection because of an inducement paid to the person conducting the inspection? Would you be happy to undergo an invasive medical procedure that was never required because of kickbacks to the medical staff or hospital? If we know that someone is doing the wrong thing and we do nothing to stop them, we will all be less safe and it is possible that one day, someone might pay with their life.
Report corruption not just because it is an obligation, report it because it’s the right thing to do and it’s in all of our best interests, including yours.
This article was published in Issue 4 - April 2016 of ICAC's newsletter.