Over 7,000 public officers responded to the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s Public Integrity Survey 2021. The Commission’s report was published in June 2022 and explored the perceptions of corruption within South Australian public administration.
This is the first survey conducted since significant amendments to the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 2012 (ICAC Act) and shows that the proportion of participants who had reported corruption has decreased since 2018, although a third of respondents believed they had witnessed corruption within their workplace.
It is evident that further education should be encouraged throughout public administration to minimise the risks of corruption in public office. Despite the majority of participants believing their workplace to be vulnerable to corruption, they also felt fearful of reporting. Responses about the need for greater protection for whistleblowers appeared frequently in the qualitative comments.
The survey shows a disparity between senior leaders and non-leaders in how they perceive corruption. Some participants felt senior leaders were more likely to be culprits of improper conduct including corruption. This appears as abusing their authority, mismanaging public resources, and making decisions based on political expediency rather than the public interest.
Responses to the Public Integrity Survey have provided insights for the sector, and the Commission has written an additional eight individual agency reports which were delivered to departments directly. Each report offers insights specific to the agency and seeks to promote integrity in the workplace.
Approximately 10.4% of public officers within local government responded to the Public Integrity Survey. These findings were published in a standalone report.
Nepotism and favouritism in recruitment and promotions were perceived as the most predominant risks in local government. Almost as many qualitative responses related to procurement and the awarding of contracts. Participants raised concerns around the lack of due diligence before entering contracts, and staff lacking sufficient expertise and training.
Certain corruption risks might be more prevalent in regional councils, and reflect the challenges faced by public officers working in small, close-knit communities. These include nepotism in recruitment and political interference. The qualitative comments also indicate that conflicts of interest might be more acute in regional councils. It might also be more difficult for public officers in regional councils to speak up about potential corruption.
The report proposes further training and education concerning corruption for public officers in regional areas, as well as public officers in casual or short-term employment.
Workplaces which are seen to tolerate unfair preferential treatment, and where staff feel underappreciated and disengaged, are vulnerable to corrupt behaviour.
Long-term staff more often felt overlooked and undervalued. The Commission recognises how essential it is to empower public officers to report corruption. While some public officers feared being victimised for reporting, others were doubtful a report would be genuinely considered.