State of the service

Integrity and Code of Conduct

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The Australian Public Service (APS) serves the Government, Parliament and the Australian people. The APS has a strong reputation for being apolitical and acting with integrity. It is the duty of all public servants to uphold the APS Values. They underpin effective decision making and behaviour.

  • “APS is apolitical & acts with integrity. Misconduct, unlawful conduct & corruption are infrequent

Misconduct, unlawful conduct and corruption are infrequent. However it would be wrong to be complacent. When issues are identified they are investigated and the outcomes are reported.

APS employment currently stands at 152,000 employees. Code of Conduct investigations involving 557 employees were finalised by agencies during 2014-15. This represents less than 0.4% of the total workforce. Of these, 85% resulted in findings of a Code of Conduct breach. The number of employees who were the subject of investigation was lower than the 592 cases in 2013–14.

Figure 1.

Interactive Chart: Finalised investigations and breaches of the Code of Conduct, 2012–13 to 2014–15

Paper icon representing the learn more page Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 1.

Figure 1. is a line chart showing the mean age of APS employees from 1966 to 2015. The mean age has steadily increased since 1983 (mean age 34.4) to 2015 (mean age 43.5). Prior to 1983 the mean age remained below 35 years of age, with the mean age ranging from 33.2 (lowest in 1973) to 35 (1966 and 1982).

This is an interactive chart: hover over the coloured squares to view data.

The most frequently investigated breach was a failure to ‘at all times behave in a way that upholds the APS Values and APS Employment Principles and the integrity and good reputation of the employee’s Agency and the APS’.

Figure 2.

Interactive Chart: Nature of reported and finalised breaches of the Code of Conduct 2013–14 to 2014-15

Paper icon representing the learn more page Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 2.

Figure 2. is an interactive chart showing reported and finalised breaches of the APS Code of Conduct. The full data set is available via the read more page link above.

This is an interactive chart: use the scroll bar to view the various types of investigated breaches.

Results from the APS employee census show that an overwhelming majority of APS employees believe their peers and supervisors act in accordance in with the APS Values. Likewise, the majority of employees agreed their senior leaders do the same.

The employee census also explored employee perceptions of accountability in their agency. This included asking whether or not the respondent, their workgroup, supervisor and senior leaders take responsibility for problems they have identified. Two-thirds of respondents believed that people in their workgroup take responsibility for problems. Over three-quarters of respondents believed their immediate supervisor takes responsibility for problems.

The employee census also asked respondents if people in their agency are encouraged to speak up when they identify a serious policy or delivery risk. Sixty-three per cent of respondents reported they are encouraged to raise concerns or issues.

Figure 3.

Staff are encouraged to speak up about policy or delivery risks

Paper icon representing the learn more page Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 3.

Per cent

Figure 3 is a bar chart showing employee perceptions toward whether employees in their agency are encouraged to speak up when they identify a serious policy or delivery risk. Sixty-three per cent of respondents agree they are encouraged to raise concerns or issues, 23.4% neither agree nor disagree, 13.8% disagree.

Positive perceptions of accountability were highest in smaller agencies. The majority of respondents agreed their workgroup, supervisor and senior leaders take responsibility for problems.

Regardless of agency size, the majority of respondents indicated that when their supervisor identifies a problem, he/she takes responsibility for it.

Figure 4.

Perception of immediate supervisor accountability by agency size

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Percentage agree immediate supervisor takes responsibility

Figure 4 is a bar chart showing the perceptions of immediate supervisor accountability of APS employees to the various APS agency size clusters. Large agencies (78.4%) has the highest perceptions of accountability, closely followed by micro/extra small/small agencies (78.3%), medium (77.3%) and extra large agencies (74.4%) had the least.

It is important that all employees are aware of their responsibility to uphold the APS Values and comply with the Code of Conduct. Managers play an important role in helping employees build sound judgement in applying the Values to their day-to-day work. It is also important that misconduct, when identified, is addressed promptly.

Accountability is one of the five APS Values. Employees are accountable for their own behaviour and performance. They are expected to do what is right, rather than merely avoiding doing what is wrong. The results from the APS employee census are encouraging in this respect.

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Read the State of the Service Report 2014–15 on the APSC website.