On 10 May 2018 the Commissioner announced he would conduct an evaluation of the practices, policies and procedures of the regulatory arm of SafeWork SA. The evaluation concluded with the Commissioner making 39 recommendations in a report that was tabled in Parliament on 29 November 2018.

The purpose of an evaluation is to consider what improvements can be made to better equip an agency to resist corruption, misconduct and maladministration. However, the benefits of an evaluation go beyond improving the operations of the agency that was the subject of the evaluation.

The evaluation of SafeWork SA identified key learnings, which are relevant to all agencies across public administration.

Unsurprisingly one of those learnings concerns the impact of culture on an agency’s risk profile. Poor oganisational culture, often sits at the centre of poor practices and poor organisational effectiveness. Public authorities would benefit from making an honest assessment of their culture and asking how it might be impacting on the way the agency operates.

Likewise poor organisational systems are often linked to poor behaviour. Systems that do not adequately track and record information not only enable inappropriate conduct but also make it difficult to prove which individuals are responsible for the poor conduct.

There are some salient lessons for all public authorities:

  • An agency in public administration ought to have a clear understanding of its purpose, its functions and the duties carried out by its staff.
  • The policies and procedures of an agency should operate within a documented framework, which sets out how policies are drafted, reviewed, approved and communicated.
  • An agency must ensure that staff who are employed to carry out a function are properly equipped to do so.
  • Effective communication channels between different parts of an agency will minimise risk.

You can read the Commissioner’s report, including recommendations and lesson’s learned online.

This article was published in Issue #1 - February 2019 of ICAC's Integrity Matters newsletter.