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Strategic priority five: upholding the integrity of the APS

In the 2019-20 Corporate Plan, the Commission describes how the principles of good public administration are at the heart of the public confidence in the way the APS exercises authority when meeting government objectives. The Commission committed to uphold the integrity of the APS by communicating what it means to be a public servant and to be vigilant in identifying and addressing integrity issues.

Under Strategic Priority Five, two focus areas illustrated the Commission’s work to uphold the integrity of the APS. The areas of focus included Integrity Advice and APS values.

Of the two targets set for 2019-20 one was achieved and one was partially achieved.

Performance Analysis

Integrity Advice

In this period, the APSC continued to deliver advice and guidance on ethical matters in the APS through provision of the Ethics Advisory Service. Levels of use of this service were consistent with the previous financial year.

New Guidance was released in October 2019 in relation to declaration of gifts and benefits received by agency heads, and a specialised inbox established to provide advice on this Guidance. This inbox was well-utilised by agencies seeking specific advice on implementation of the reporting requirements under the new Guidance.

The APS Commissioner continued his role of chairing the Integrity Agencies Group (IAG), an agency-head-level forum that leads coordination, enhancement and promotion of institutional integrity in the APS. In December 2019, the IAG settled new Terms of Reference and governance arrangements, published on the public-facing APSC website. The new governance arrangements include publication on the APSC website of key outcomes of each IAG meeting. The IAG also welcomed a new member in December 2019, with the Human Rights Commissioner joining this forum.

APS Values

As the APS Census was not completed within usual timeframes in light of COVID-19, Census evaluation data is not available. However, the number and nature of inquiries raised through the Ethics Advisory Service remained consistent with previous years. Additionally, commentary through wide consultation indicates that professional obligations with respect to APS Values are understood. As part of the APSC’s implementation of government commitments to reinforce APS integrity, the APSC met with all Secretaries, a number of Agency Heads, senior officials and APS staff to discuss integrity in their agencies and in the APS generally. These consultations indicated that levels of compliance with the Code of Conduct remain high across the service, and that understanding of the role of pro-integrity culture is increasing.

Performance Summary

Table 15 Integrity Advice

Performance Measure

Promote a high standard of integrity in the APS

Area of Focus

Integrity Advice

Approach

Uphold the highest standards of stewardship and integrity

Skilfully lead reform

Target

Publications, networks, and other support services are regularly used across the APS

Source

Australian Public Service Commission Corporate Plan 2019-2020, p 12; 2019-20 Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio Budget Statements p. 139

Performance Achieved

Achieved

The APSC is driving initiatives to strengthen pro-integrity culture across the APS, which has involved meeting with all Secretaries, a number of Agency Heads, senior officials and APS staff to discuss their approach to, and understanding of, integrity in the APS. The APSC will continue to drive pro-integrity culture in the next financial year and beyond.

Table 16 APS Values

Performance Measure

Promote a high standard of integrity in the APS

Area of Focus

APS Values

Approach

Uphold the highest standards of stewardship and integrity

Skilfully lead reform

Target

Evaluation data indicates managers and employees understand their professional obligations as APS employees

Source

Australian Public Service Commission Corporate Plan 2019-2020, p 12; 2019-20 Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio Budget Statements p. 139

Performance Achieved

Partially Achieved

As APS Census was not completed within usual timeframes in light of COVID-19, specific evaluation data is not available. However, training on APS Ethics and Values continued to be delivered throughout 2019-20, with self-reported capability increasing from pre to post training. Together with the initiatives to strengthen pro-integrity culture outlined above, there is confidence that professional obligations with respect to APS Values are understood.